Asking Questions

A few days ago, I was in an interview with an experienced senior sales executive. For me, the key when it comes to qualifying leads and truly understanding their needs is to ask questions.

He told me: “Never ask questions you don’t know the answer to!”

I was caught off guard, because I didn’t expect to hear this from someone who was much more senior than me.

I think it is bad advice.

  1. Why would I ask questions I know the answer to?
  2. How do I find out things I don’t know the answer to?

For me, venturing into the unknown — asking questions you don’t know the answers to — is critical to finding new insights, innovative solutions, and even business opportunities that may not be obvious at first.

By asking questions you don’t know the answers to, you expose yourself to new perspectives and encourage out-of-the-box thinking. You create a better understanding of customer needs, market trends, and competitive dynamics.

We could improve the conventional advice to: “Never ask questions you can easily find the answers to.

But even then, I truly believe that what’s publicly known is not necessarily factual truth. Public knowledge is often inchoate, embellished, and sometimes outright false.

If you don’t ask questions you don’t know the answers to, you won’t gain a competitive advantage. You will not build deep trust with your counterparts. You will not learn and progress as quickly.

I think you have to question everything. And asking questions that you know the answer to is like going in circles—it gives you the illusion of movement but takes you nowhere.

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