The questions we ask shape the responses we get.

Too often, our questions, whether they are questions we ask our customers or questions managers ask their people, limit our ability to learn and understand the real issues they face.

We focus on the issues most important to us–which tend to focus on our products and services–but may miss the issues that are really critical to the customer.

We may take the customer down a path that helps us learn, and may help the customer learn more about those things we are interested in. But we and our customers may miss what’s really important.

In some sense, it’s like the “Heisenberg Uncertainty Effect,” applied to selling and coaching. The principle, applied to scientific observations tells us the observer influences what is being measured.

In the case of sales/coaching, our own agendas and questions influence the responses we get. Things shift when we shift our focus. How would what we learn change if we focus on what our customers or people want to accomplish, rather than how they accomplish it?*

In shifting our approach, both the customer and we learn much more, more deeply. We learn what’s most important to our customers/people, rather than focusing on what we think is important. Where we might miss something in talking about what we want to talk about, we understand other areas where we might be more helpful. And even if it isn’t directly applicable to how we might help, we have a deeper understanding of what they care about and how we might be most helpful.

Learning what the customer wants to express, gives us a deeper understanding of what they want to do and why, enabling us to better focus on the how in subsequent conversations.

It’s so simple, yet we so seldom do it. Magic happens when we give our customers and people the opportunity to talk about what they want to talk about, to express themselves, while listen.

*Take a look at “Data Is Great, But It’s Not A Replacement For Talking To Customers”