I don’t know about you, but I wish I had all the right answers. It’s hard to let go of the desire to be right all the time, especially at work. But the desire to have all the correct answers can get in the way of having a meaningful, open dialogue. And it can get in the way of asking the right questions.

Two recent summaries on ActionableBooks got me thinking about the value of asking the right questions. The Dan Sullivan Question, and Questions that Work both offer advice and tactics for people who want to ask better questions and ultimately, be more productive.

You can use these tactics to maximize productivity when you are getting to know prospective clients, demonstrate your value, and ultimately, close more sales and get to work providing solutions that have positive impact. When you ask great questions, you can find the information you need to craft a compelling story about why your services and expertise are the solution your prospect has been looking for.

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Start by creating your own “to ask” list—a list of questions that help you zoom in on the best information. Focus on questions that provide clarity and direction, and think about your questions as a way to build relationships, as opposed to simply a means to collecting more information. Remember that your conversations are not tests—there are no right or wrong answers—give your prospective clients room to discuss what is relevant to them, to be unsure in their answers, and to think things through in the moment.

To encourage expansive thinking, you can also harness the power of a pause—when they have finished answering a question, deliberately pause for a few seconds. Resist the urge to fill the silence. They may continue their thinking and reveal an important piece of information.

Take a lesson from The Dan Sullivan Question, and ask the following questions at your next meeting with a prospective client:

  • “If we were having this discussion three years from today, and you were looking back over those three years, what has to have happened in your life, both personally and professionally, for you to feel happy with your progress?”
  • “Specifically, what dangers do you have now that need to be eliminated, what opportunities need to be captured, and what strengths need to be maximized?”

These questions will reveal a great deal about your prospects, and you can use that information to your advantage in your subsequent communications, as well as in your proposals or pitches. We know that harnessing the power of the promised land can help you close more sales—so ask pointed questions that reveal what the promised land looks like for each client.

Take careful notes about the dangers, opportunities, and strengths about your prospective clients’ organization—it will allow you to craft a customized pitch or proposal that will address their needs.

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We have created a worksheet that will help you use this information to craft compelling stories that sell your services to prospective clients. Download the worksheet to get started.

Your clients hire you as a business consultant or coach to solve their problems—to answer their questions, get to the root of their issues, and create more productive work cultures for their teams. By asking questions that work, and harnessing the power of storytelling to craft your pitches, you can create more meaningful impact for your clients, and close more sales.