Communication TipsConsulting Best Practices

3 Questions Not to Ask Clients

Listening and asking questions are the two ways to distinguish good consultants from bad consultants. Specifically, bad consultants will not listen, and they will ask questions that betray their ignorance more than they will reveal useful company insights. Michael Zipursky reveals in a YouTube video three questions not to ask, followed by examples of how to remedy each inquiry.

Three Wrong Inquiries

  1. “Tell me about your business.”
  2. “Who is your target market?”
  3. “What is your budget for this project?”

Three Recommended Examples of How to Fix Them

  1. “Many companies in your market are facing ‘X.’ Are you also finding that a challenge, or is there a bigger issue on your mind?”
  2. “Can you tell me what your ideal client looks like?” “How old are they?” “Where do they get their info from?” “What position do they hold?”
  3. “What is the value of one new client to you?”

The first wrong question demonstrates that you have done no research on the company, which is practically insulting when the Internet can teach you so much about a business in seconds. The remedied version shows that you have done your homework, and you are ready to dive directly into their needs.

The second question is too general. A target audience can be a lot of things. The remedied version here hones in on details that clearly spell out who the business is really seeking. The spirit of this situation would also apply in a non-marketing context, where, for instance, you could ask IT clients which people in the business would be making use of a tool in development.

The final question’s problems are twofold. One, the client may not have a set budget yet, and secondly, causing the client to set a budget right there can turn you into a commodity. It is too early in the discussion to plague the client with these calculations. Flip the table and ask about where you can be creating value instead, which is a much happier subject.

Asking and Hearing

Zipursky reminds us that, at the end of the day, listening is the ultimate skill. Without it, you cannot provide the best recommendations or understand what the buyer needs. In such a scenario, you cannot honestly say you have the best solution. So listen up, ask smart questions, and ace the landing on your next client interview. You can view the full video here:

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