You’re sitting in a meeting where the client briefs you and asks questions. You do too. But what questions do you ask?

A scenario we all know: a troubled client with a troubled business – maybe the opportunity of a lifetime. The information comes in torrents, and with the information are questions, important questions that could impact the success and future of the clients’ business, and clearly ours with them. Answers are needed.

Another scenario: internal discussions about the clients’ business or about our own. Questions and the need for answers don’t change…Listening is critical (another subject for another day). Thinking and considered response is obvious. But still, answers are needed, answers to fuel more questions and lead to action.
Look carefully at the next RFI, RFP or any questionnaire your office receives. Read the questions. How would you answer them? How have you answered them in the past? Next time a friend, a significant other, or close anybody, asks for your advice or needs a response, run yourself in replay and listen carefully to how you answered.

And here is the filter – did you answer the question? Did you give a clear and direct response? Did your initial reply provide enough information to begin working on a solution or did it ramble, deflect, or worse, divert?

In a recent new business questionnaire, the search consultant asked us what our capabilities were in digital services. The draft answer I read began as follows: “The WWW has become an important factor in the daily lives of many around the world. Interactive activities are critical to our ability to provide…” You get the point. It wasn’t until the third paragraph that I found “We provide…”

And there you have it. Here is the quote:

“All too many consultants, when asked, ‘What is two and two?’ respond, ‘What did you have in mind?’”
Nicholas M. Butler

The answer that the client needed was plainly and simply, “four”. After that, you could build on and expand on the question itself, the answer, or whatever. But without answering “four” in the first place, you haven’t answered the question, no matter how clever or smart you think you’ve been.

So listen carefully and answer directly. A direct and clear answer gives you the credibility and the permission to build, to improvise and to further question.

If it’s raining, and someone asks you what the weather is like, what would you say?

Carlos Castaneda and his view on changing the way we look at the world elicited some good responses. Mark Spector writes “We are direct marketers. We are supposed to be experts in one to one marketing. The internet gives us the technology. The challenge is to use that technology creatively.”

Two great quotes were shared as well – one from Chandra Mostov who runs our newest addition to the family, Emerge/Wunderman in Denmark, who writes, “if you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail” Abraham Maslow. And Debbie Kamioner in New York sent in the following quote from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: “I have vision and the rest of the world wears bifocals.”

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