When you ask the right questions, you'll be surprised at how big of a breakthrough you can find in the answers you get!

When you ask the right questions, you’ll be surprised at how big of a breakthrough you can find in the answers you get!

Hey there Rainmaker, what if I told you that one big secret to creating business breakthroughs is NOT having the right answers, but asking the right questions?

Well, when I put it like that, it may seem obvious — but what ARE the right questions?

Let’s talk about that today…

I’m going to give you a short list of some of the best I’ve picked up along the way, from some of my business and marketing mentors.

The Dan Sullivan Question…

There’s a ton to this question, including how to use it and the answer it gives you. But simply knowing the question and being able to use it is quite powerful.

And I’m not just talking about in a coaching/consulting arrangement. This question can be used in coaching, yes — and it’s used regularly in Dan’s organization, Strategic Coach. But it can also be a very effective question to use in a sales context, to help you elicit buying motivations and decision-making criteria.

Here it is…

“If we were having this discussion three years from today, and you were looking back over those three years, what has to have happened in your life, both personally and professionally, for you to feel happy with your progress?”

“Specifically, what dangers do you have now that need to be eliminated, what opportunities need to be captured, and what strengths need to be maximized?”

What this does is it forces the answerer to look at their life from a big picture view, pinpoint what’s important, and what it’s going to take (overcoming the bad, leveraging the good) to get what they want.

Dan has a whole book on this, called — maybe not surprisingly — The Dan Sullivan Question. It’s highly recommended!

A short list of questions from Joe Polish…

Joe is definitely someone I’ve followed for a while, ever since I went back and listened to every episode of his I Love Marketing podcast starting in 2013 (and every episode since).

And when Brian Kurtz gave me a chance to sit next to anyone (except Gary Bencivenga) at the VIP Boardroom Dinner at The Titans of Direct Response, it was Joe who I most wanted to sit with. (Then I sat with him and Jay Abraham at lunch the next day!)

Anyway, Joe’s a really sharp dude who has been following response-accountable direct response principles for decades, and who has trained with the best-of-the-best ever since first finding Gary Halbert in the 1990s.

And if you hire Joe to consult with you on your business for half a day, he has a very specific set of questions that he starts with, to get the conversation going.

Here are Joe’s questions, pulled from his Hire Joe page on his website…

— First: What do you do? (Basically, what does your company do, what problem(s) do you feel it solves, what do you currently sell/want to sell? Please write up for us a short summary of what it is that your company does and what you want it to do, as best as you can explain it.)

— Second: Where are you now? (How many clients, prospects? Where are you financially? What is the size of your support team? Write a summary about where you are currently “at” in your business.)

— Third: Where do you want to go? (Just give Joe an idea of what your objective is in the next 12 months and then beyond.)

— And Finally: How are you going to get there? (In the context of marketing this is where Joe can really help you. Let Joe know what you feel is the best way to get there. This is where Joe can make things very exciting for you!)

More questions, from more marketing geniuses…

I have within arms reach at all times client questionnaires that I’ve managed to collect from both Jay Abraham and Dan Kennedy…

Both of which yield some interesting questions…

Dan Kennedy’s Magic Genie question, for example…

“If the genie appeared and gave you three wishes, so you could change three things in or about your business instantly, with no effort or cost, what would these changes be? (As specific as possible.)”

Or his Rich Uncle question…

“If a rich uncle arrived and gave you $100,000.00 to spend on advertising, marketing, promoting, or otherwise expanding your business, what would you do with it?”

And I’m pretty sure this question also came from Dan, although it’s more of a question you should aspire to answer, not one you can necessarily answer now. The answer to this question is your Unique Selling Proposition, or USP…

“Why should I, your customer, choose to do business with you over every other option available to me, including buying from a competitor, solving the problem myself, or simply doing nothing?”

While Jay Abraham also has similar questions, some of his are much more pointed…

“What is your long-term strategy? Do you want to own the business forever? Do you want to set it up for someone else to run it for you? Do you want to sell it? Or do you just want to make a wad of money and then stop?”

Or, reflecting Jay’s thinking (including The Strategy of Preeminence I explained in a recent article)…

“What is your business philosophy as it relates to your customers?”

And then there’s the questions that get right at important metrics…

“What is the ‘lifetime value’ of your typical customer? (i.e. how much revenue will he/she generate for you over the entire period he/she does business with your company?)”

The value of asking questions…

You know the old saying, “To someone with a hammer, everything looks like a nail” … ?

Well, if you run around with answers in search of questions, you’re often going to get mis-fits in terms of the solutions you try to provide. And this is the case whether you’re working on your own business, or are functioning as a consultant working on others’, or even if you’re a salesperson looking to close an important deal.

The alternative is to say, “What do we have here?” And based on what you find, you can pick the right tool or solution.

Find a nail? Sure, use that hammer!

Find a screw? Get a screwdriver…

Need to rip a board? Use the table saw…

If you know even the tiniest thing about woodworking, you wouldn’t try to cut a piece of plywood down the center with a hammer…

So why, would you go into a business situation with a solution in mind before you understand what the problem or opportunity really is?

Sure, maybe your specialty is sales letters, if you’re a copywriter. But by asking questions, you can find out which businesses might see the use of an effective sales letter as a good thing, and which would never test. Then you can spend more time working where you’ve found a fit, and less trying to force a fit where there is none.

And don’t worry — no question is too “dumb”…

When we start asking questions, there can be the worry that we’re going to ask a “dumb” one.

But often, asking the really simple questions can lead to the biggest breakthroughs…

James Dyson — the inventor of Dyson vacuums — for example, asked, “Why do vacuums have to have bags?”

Nobody else had asked that question. It’s just the way they’d always done it.

But Dyson wasn’t satisfied, and so he borrowed a cyclone-based dust capture mechanism he’d seen used in sawmills, completely transformed the vacuum industry, and became a billionaire.

Nobody else had thought to find a good answer to the “Why do vacuums have to have bags?” question — in fact, most people would have thought that question to be pretty dumb.

And yet, finding the answer to the right question made Dyson a personal fortune.

What questions should YOU be asking, and to whom?

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

Chief Rainmaker, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets

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