Questions are an essential tool for any business, but are you asking the right ones in the right way? A question can help you find out information, it can prove a point and it can help you make a sale. So, the most important question is: How do you ask the right questions?

As you may have guessed from the title we are headed for a trusty acronym, one that I came up with to help me when structuring my questions. If you can keep these tips and tricks in mind when you are planning to ask people questions, then you are much more likely to get the answers you need.

 

Question your questions – what is the question, why are you asking it and who are you asking it to? When you are planning to ask a question, you need to be able to answer these points and more (and many of the following tips relate back to this one).

Understand your goal – a question should have a goal but what that goal is can vary depending on the situation. A question’s purpose is rarely as simple as just providing an answer. It is more often along the lines of getting feedback, reinforcing marketing or sales messages and collecting opinions.

Expand on your initial question – your first question will get you your first response, your second question should be about the response you just got. It is a rare and wonderful experience when you ask a simple question and get all the information you need in one go. It is much more likely you will need to encourage people to talk more about the areas you want them to.

Speak the right language – don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of jargon and an acronym (as evidenced by this article) but when you are asking questions it is more important to spell everything out in a way that everyone understands than to save a few seconds with a quick abbreviation, IMHO (sorry couldn’t resist that one).

Transition from one question to the next – this is not the same as expanding on your question, this is more about planning the flow of your questions. Good questions take people on a journey and the best way to make sure they don’t get lost along the way is to plan your route in advance and have a clear vision on where your next question is headed.

Information comes from listening – don’t forget the key part of asking a question is getting an answer. Even if you are positive you know what the person’s answer will be, make sure you listen to what they have to say. They could surprise you with insights you never thought of and even if they do say what you expect, they still want the chance to tell you.

One thing at a time – one question is usually not enough but multi part questions are not the answer. Expand on answers, transition from question to question but don’t ask more than one thing per question. If you ask two or three things in a single question you are more than likely to only get the answer to one of them.

Neutrality – this does not mean all your questions need to be neutral, it just means you need to be aware of their level of neutrality. If you want an unbiased, honest opinion, be neutral. If you want to get someone fired up, push a certain point of view or lead people to a set conclusion, you want it to be anything but!

Any questions? Contact The Consultants’ Community today at info@theconsultantscommunity.com.au

No is a very negative word but it has the power to positively influence all of our lives. No is not a bad thing, it is simply a point of view, a stance, an opinion and it is ok to say it.

When you are asked questions in everyday life you don’t shy away from saying no. Would you like sugar in your coffee? No thanks. Did you want to add Avocado to that dish? No, I am good thanks. So why is it so hard to say in some situations?

When starting out in business there are two types of no that are hard. They are:

  • No, we can’t do that
  • No, I am not interested

The first one is hardest to say when you are first starting out as it usually means you are turning away work. Saying no to something outside your field of expertise is hard but it is also an important skill to learn. Do what you do well and let others do the things you are not an expert in. This will result in more time for you to do what you are best at and you can help other businesses grow at the same time. Don’t be afraid to say no and then carry on to say: but I know someone who can…

The second No is trickier for small business owners. If you are growing your business this is actually the No you need to hear and often won’t. Not everyone will buy into your business straight off, not everyone will want to sign on the dotted line, and very few people will tell you this. This no is the closure we as small business owners need to move on and rarely get. This is the no that we need so it isn’t awkward every time you run into the guy you pitched at the last networking event and this no is the one you need to hear to grow and develop. Next time you realise that you are not going to take up another business owners offer, tell them. They might not be happy about it but at least they know where they stand.

No does not always have to be negative and as long as you say it politely, and have a reason behind it, it can change the way you do business and deal with clients.

If you want to talk about how saying no can help your business then contact The Consultants’ Community today at info@theconsultantscommunity.com.au

There’s no doubt about it: public speaking is an act of vulnerability. To lay ourselves bare and speak openly and honestly in front of others requires courage. In doing so, we expose our authentic, best self to the scrutiny and evaluation of an audience. And herein lies the source of one of life’s greatest fears: what if the audience doesn’t like what they see or hear, and judge us unfavourably as a result?

Alas, like it or not, as a business leader, public speaking in front of your colleagues, customers, prospects, peers, or industry network is a professional inevitability that can be as daunting for some as it is exhilarating for others.

Whether you love it or loathe it, here are my top tips for overcoming your fear of public speaking so you connect with your audience:

Prepare for the worst; aim for the best
Let’s say the audience doesn’t like what they see or hear. So what? What’s the worst that can happen? Visualise it. Then take the time to prepare for your worst case scenario. Put a contingency response in place and practice it. If the worst happens, at least you will know what to expect and won’t be caught off guard.

It’s not about you
Sorry folks, but it’s not about you – it’s always about your audience! So get out of your own way. Take the focus off yourself and turn your attention to the audience. Put yourself in their shoes. Do your research. Understand their challenges, questions, opportunities, hopes, fears, wants, and needs. Then use this knowledge to design a talk that speaks directly to them. They may not agree with everything you have to say, but they’ll respect you for respecting them.

Perfection doesn’t exist
Don’t try to be perfect – just try to be valuable. This goes hand in hand with the previous point, but I think it warrants its own mention. If you focus too much on writing the perfect script and delivering the perfectperformance, you’ll lose focus on your audience. Given its subjective nature, there’s no such thing as the perfect speech or talk. So instead of chasing something that doesn’t exist, keep your focus firmly on being of value to your audience.

Pause. Breathe. Continue.
Sounds simple enough right? But in states of stress or excitement we are more likely to charge through our talk without giving pause for effect…or breath! Pausing to breathe serves many purposes. It calms us as the speaker, helping to centre our thoughts and give power to our voice when we next speak. It also gives the audience chance to digest what we have just said. No one wants a three-course dinner rammed down their throat all at once. The same is true when we speak. Don’t cause yourself – or your audience – to choke on your words by forgetting to pause and breathe.

Remember, it’s all relative
Like all fears, the fear of public speaking reveals itself in different ways for different people. It can range from butterflies in the stomach, through to avoiding situations altogether and physical symptoms such as excessive perspiration or nausea that can be associated with social anxiety or ‘social phobia’. If this sounds familiar, Beyond Blue has some great resources on the signs, symptoms and treatments for social phobia that I encourage you to check out.

If you’d like to learn more about speaking to connect with, impact and influence your audience why not come and hear me talk at The Consultants’ Community event? It is at 7am on Tuesday 13th March at Hemingway’s in Manly. Get your tickets here: