Are You Asking Clients the Right Questions at the Right Time?

I’ve always been a big believer in the power of a great question.

A great question can stop people in their tracks.  It can get to the heart of what's important.  It can force us to look at things from a different angle.

Robin Williams nailed the concept in Dead Poets Society when he leapt on his desk. “I stand on my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.”  A great question does exactly the same thing.

n his weekly email, James Clear accomplishes something similar by asking a great question each week. More specifically he describes each as “a simple question that can deliver powerful results if taken seriously”. Taking it seriously is, of course, the key.

Among some of his nuggets:

  • What are my actions moving me closer to?
  • What do I actually want?
  • Does this activity fill me with energy or drain me of energy?
  • What is the highest leverage action I can execute on right now?

Timing is Everything

But I was reminded of something important recently. The power of a great question is not only in the asking, but the timing.

We're working with several clients to change their client conversations by co-creating the client review agenda. Simply by inviting the right input in advance of the review, these advisory firms are driving significantly deeper engagement. The questions, themselves, are critical. That goes without saying. But the fact that they are being asked before the review, not during the review, changes the conversation.

You can sit with a client with a long list of extraordinary questions at the ready. You can be poised to ask those questions with a knowing look that you are about to rock their world. But if your clients aren’t given the time to think about the question, to mull it over, to discuss it with a spouse or partner, you’ve lost a real opportunity to engage.

So consider the following types of questions to drive deeper engagement.

  1. The questions you can ask your clients to address with a partner, or their family, to clarify their goals.
  2. The questions you can ask couples to address together, to create a shared vision for the future.
  3. The questions you can ask in advance of a review, to drive a deeper conversation.
  4. The questions you can leave with your clients as “homework” after a review.

The timing and context are as important as the questions themselves. And both allow you to demonstrate real leadership.

Demonstrating Leadership

Perhaps the most important aspect of asking the right questions at the right time is that they extend the support you provide to clients.

You not only deliver meaningful guidance and leadership when you meet, but before and after you meet. Clients will experience the leadership you provide on an extended basis.

Driving Engagement

Great questions are one thing, but what we do with the answers is more important.

In the next few weeks I’m going to tackle the concept of ‘active engagement’. We actively engage clients when we ask clients the right questions, at the right time and then use their responses to change the conversation and the experience.

Related: The Risks of Building Your Experience Around a Typical Client