questioning techniques

Questioning Techniques

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Questioning is one of the most powerful tools available.  By using the right type of questioning technique at the right time, we can control our conversations and guide the other party to arrive at the conclusion we want them too.

Different types of questions generate different types of answers.  This post will discuss three main types of questions and how they can be used to get the right results.

The types of question are:

  • Open Questions
  • Closed Questions
  • Leading Questions

Open Questions

These are questions that demand an answer.  A simple yes or no will not suffice.

Open questions encourage communication and put the onus on the person answering to provide the majority of the information.  If open questions are focused and used effectively throughout a conversation, approximately 80% of the conversation will be done by the ‘answerer’ and 20% by the ‘questioner’.

Open questions often begin with words such as:

  • Why
  • What
  • How
  • When
  • Where
  • Which

By using structured open questions, you take control of the conversation.

Closed Questions

These are exactly the opposite of open questions.  Closed questions can be satisfied by a simple yes, no or single word answer.  By using closed questions, the onus is on the ‘questioner’ to do the bulk of the work. Approximately 80% of the conversation will be done by the ‘questioner’ and only 20% by the ‘answerer’.

Closed questions often begin with words such as:

  • Can
  • Should
  • Would
  • Could
  • Will
  • Do
  • Is
  • Are

Often closed questions are a sign of a lack of confidence and demonstrate submissive/passive behaviour. By using these questions, we automatically hand control over to the other person.

Leading Questions

Leading questions are normally closed and encourage the answerer to give a specific response.  In a sales situation, for example, if used correctly, leading questions can guide and direct the answerer through the process.  They also act as a good tool to check the temperature of the sale prior to an attempted close.

Some examples of Leading Questions might be:

  • Don’t you agree?
  • I’m sure you wouldn’t want to do that, would you?

The Funnel Technique

The funnel technique is an approach to questioning used to obtain information in a controlled way.

The approach involves inviting the other person to start with an open answer. When this works well the questioner collects a lot of information in answer to the first question.  The strategy is to then narrow this down to more specific information by asking narrower questions.

General Open Questions: Initial questioning is aimed at obtaining general information.  The questioner is inviting the other person to give an open and wide answer.

Specific Open Questions: The questioner is now trying to narrow information down to particular areas of interest.  This may involve questioning where there are gaps in the information given or to begin probing what the speaker has said.

Closed Questions: As the information being collected becomes more specific so do the questions.  At this stage, the questioner may be more looking for short or single word answers.

Checking Questions: The final stage is to ask questions to confirm your understanding.

The questioner may now start a new question funnel dealing with the speaker’s responses.

The funnel technique is a good way of initially drawing general information from the other person.  By using the right questions, the questioner can then control the direction of the conversation and narrow this down to very specific information.

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