As consultants, our clients come to us for answers. And step one of giving them their solution? Asking thoughtful questions. You may feel like your discovery call with your consultants is an interview itself, and you wouldn’t be wrong. No one knows your organization like you do—and when it comes to helping you find solutions, we want all the background information we can get.
The skillful use of questions is one of our most important tools—if not the most important! Asking the right questions provides us with critical information, gives us insight into our client’s challenges, helps our clients clarify their thinking, and encourages them to think of new ideas and questions of their own. Simultaneously, it helps us assess the organization’s culture, values, and norms and build relationships and robust communication solutions.
In short, we ask our questions for many reasons! Here’s what LMDers say:
Big Picture. “Ask the right questions that get your client thinking beyond what’s currently in their line of sight. Guide them to the bigger picture; shed light on things they may not have considered and then really listen to their responses.” —Karen Killian, Senior Strategist
Questions like: What campaigns or strategies have brought you past success? What haven’t you explored, and for what reasons?
Desired Outcomes. “Encourage clients to start with the end in mind. Clients often work in reactive environments with constantly changing priorities. They know they need to think about the future, but they may feel like they don't have time because they have to react in the present. As consultants, we ask a lot of questions to help them envision what the future could look like at the end of the successful project, we can start a project with optimism and consensus around mutual goals.” —Kristen Newton, Vice President of Research and Content
Questions like: What would make the biggest impact for you? What is your one-, five-, and ten-year goal? What does success look like?
At Ease. “Get to know your client. Whether an hour-long or two-minute conversation, usually if you become friendly with the client, working with them becomes so much more fun. In general, I try to make the entire experience as enjoyable as possible by injecting humor or making references to things I think they might enjoy. From there I will have a set of questions to ask them that I have prepared ahead of time. Usually, the conversation will wander in and out of work, but I’m able to bring it back on topic by saying something like, "I really want to talk about Taylor Swift too but let’s get this done first!"—Nicholas Takemoto, Creative Director
Questions like: What do you like to do when you’re not at work? What do you like best about your work? What campaigns or strategies do you look to for inspiration?
Gain Consensus. “Employ multiple strategies. Brainstorm ahead of time and prepare questions that ask the client about their pain points and whether there are any fires. Help the client prioritize their needs and set a timeframe and schedule. Make certain all decision makers and subject matter experts are involved on the project.”—Meg Sutherland & Cat Edison, Public Relations Specialists
Questions like: What has been your biggest challenge? What is preventing you from meeting it? What methods of communication and scheduling work best for you?
These strategies aren’t just for consultants. Any client facing business should be asking questions–not just in search of a solution, but in search of better understanding their clients and building relationships.
Learn more about how we Lead, Market, and Deliver. Contact LMD to help you with your next project.