Everyone’s in love with the concept of ‘asking why’ – I am too.

Asking ‘why’ is great for focusing on a company’s reason for being. However, is prefacing a question with ‘why’ an effective means for discovery sessions and gathering information with prospects/clients?

Directing a question that starts with ‘why’ can be belittling to your prospect, according to Michael B. Stanier, author of “The Coaching Habit.”

Picture this: You ask your prospect, “Why did you consider doing this campaign rather than something more targeted?

Subconsciously, the prospects’ mind goes into a defensive mode, feeling that there’s a need to justify
the actions that led to the decision

No matter how innocent your ‘why’ question was meant to be, you’ve put yourself in a higher (smarter) status making you look like the hero, rather than the prospect. It’s not a good start especially if this is a first-time discovery session.

What’s the remedy? Start your questions with what or how. For example, “What went into the decision to change your campaign from traditional to online?” Or, “Out of curiosity, how did the decision to change campaigns evolve?

The difference: ‘why’ makes for an uneasiness of justification and defensiveness; ‘what’ and ‘how’ makes for an easier flowing back and forth conversation.

Recently, in a closed door new business session with ad agency CEOs, all agreed that the proper wording of questions is one of the most effective ways to gain trust … especially when it makes the prospect the ‘hero’ … rather than you.

Joel Cohen is the founder of CEO Stars – www.ceostars.com – a unique concept with a community of over 105 ad agency CEOs. Cohen is also the founder of Dreamland, USA – ‘An Imagineering Community’ – that helps leaders accomplish their ‘impossible.’