Questionation: the value of asking the right questions | Turnaround Tuesdays with Mark Faust


Does your team execute sales calls, negotiations, and business development meetings with excellence? Or, do you find yourself getting frustrated with the direction and quality of dialogue in key meetings?

Often, meetings are prepared for with planning around the timing and logistics. Usually, there will be research on the companies and the people who are involved in the discussion. However, I’m amazed at how infrequent adequate preparations are given around sharpening the most powerful tool in the human language: Questions.

You have discussed your goals for a meeting—whether it’s to negotiate better terms, or complete a deal—they are your destination. However, you must construct paths that will get you to that destination. The questions you ask and the dialogue they generate create those paths.

This process of clarifying desired outcomes and the questions that are most likely to guide you toward realizing them is what I call questionation.


There are five types of questions to develop for any selling- or negotiation-oriented dialogue.

Like the best programmers who write the most efficient code possible with the fewest commands possible, you want to create the shortest list of questions that will touch on all areas of inquiry, and get you to your destination as expeditiously and successfully as possible.


No. 1: Fact questions.

You want to ask as few of these questions as possible. This is because they elicit a so-what type of emotional response and burn out the person being questioned. They are questions that start with words like how, when, who and where. These questions are just getting facts.


No. 2: Objective questions.

These questions yield the objectives, challenges, problems or desired outcomes of your partner in dialogue. Usually, there is a pain at the root of the answer or at least a desire, and thus a frustration, with the current situation. “What is it you would most like to improve or achieve?” is an example of this type of question.


No. 3: Consequence questions.

These questions yield the cost of not changing the situation or delaying the accomplishment of the objective. Ideally, this is when you will dollarize the cost of not solving a problem or not reaching an objective. Pinching the pain by asking, “What does it really cost you each day that your situation remains the same?” helps to identify just how much pain or loss occurs by not reaching the objective sooner.


No. 4: Upside questions.

These questions identify the value realized once the objective is accomplished. These answers can be dynamically different from the consequence questions because once the objective is realized, there could be a whole new dimension of performance and thus significantly higher level of value that can be realized. Asking, “What does achieving this objective help you to do going forward?” can help to find future value not just reduction of costs.

After identifying all the possible costs and upsides—thus the real why your client wants to achieve a certain objective—it is only then that you can begin to redirect his or her thoughts toward steps that will get the two of you moving together toward a mutually desired destination. Do this with solution-step questions.


No. 5: Solution-step questions.

These questions advance the dialogue and tee up the next steps. It is far easier to win a relationship or negotiation with a choice of yes answers versus a yes/no outdated and manipulative closing approach. These questions can include asking about the best next steps to take, timing or measure.

Preparing with your team by creating clear meeting objectives and a questioning vocabulary has much more value than knowing about every little detail you can research. Questionation is your tool for success.


You are in a battle for the best people in the marketplace. To get them, you need to be the best workplace. To be a great place to work, you need a compelling culture.


About Mark Faust

Each Tuesday, turnaround consultant Mark Faust will be sharing his expertise on how to turn around your small business. His blogs will be filled with practical insights and basic turnaround strategies designed to guide you through crisis leadership and change management.  You'll be able to tap into tips on everything from profitability issues, business continuity plans and pandemic pivots to operational processes, marketing and customers additional value.

As one of the companies he helped grow, we know first hand how inspiring his leadership is and just how well it works! Mark has also agreed to make his best-selling book ‘Growth or Bust’ available, free of charge, to any small business to help them create  their own effective turnaround plan. We’ll be sharing that with you soon.

You can learn more about Mark and his company, Echelon Management, by clicking here.


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Topics: small business owners, innovation, workplace culture, company culture, industry trends, leadership development, transformation, breakthroughs, change management, Mark Faust, growth strategies, grow your business, business insights, strategy and growth, Echelon Management International, effective corporate turnaround, turnaround plan, basic turnaround strategies, empowerment, small business turnaround strategies, turnaround mindset, strategic planning, growth opportunities, strategic thinking, probing questions, strategic priorities, management tools, better meetings, ask better questions, sales calls, negotiations, effective communications

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