The Most Important Question You’ll Ever Ask Is Why

Question mark

I once turned down a position because they told me they wanted me but under the condition I didn’t ask too many questions. Their response made me shake my head because one of the most important things you can do in business is ask “why.”

The purpose isn’t to be difficult, oppositional, adversarial or to make you look smart. It is because when we understand why we are doing what we do, how we do it and why we do it we create an environment for improving the processes and in return strengthen our businesses.

Don’t misunderstand this to mean that asking “why” is a magic pill or panacea for all that ails your business. It is not a guarantee of record breaking profits and happy shareholders.

Nor is it a guarantee of happier customers, employees and better benefits.

Why Do it?

The reason you want to do it is because sometimes the way we do things isn’t based upon logic, reason or intentional design. It just happened that way.

It might be the best way to do whatever it is you are doing or maybe inertia and or a lack of resources are the reason it has never been changed.

I am naturally inquisitive and since many of my responsibilities as a writer/marketer involve trying to sell/explain/increase market share of products/services asking “why” has become second nature to me.

Those of you who know me in real life might be smiling and thinking that I am trying pull the wool over your eyes.  You know I am the guy who will mess with people and ask ridiculous questions because I am curious to see what kind of answers I get.

But think about this for a moment with me.

If I am trying to help sell/promote widgets I need to understand them. I need to know what the features and benefits are so that I can explain them in a way that makes sense to people.

It is also my role as a member of the team to try and find ways to help make life easier for all of the team members so sometimes the way you do that is by asking questions so that you can analyze and evaluate things so that you can make a determination about their effectiveness.

Customers/Clients Like When You Ask Intelligent Questions

Asking “why” isn’t something that has to be or should be limited to internal discussions either.  Many years ago I worked for a manufacturer of diamond tools. We had a plant in which we built saws/drill and the blades/bits that they used to cut holes in concrete.

When I started there I worked in the Inside Sales department and during the busy season it wasn’t unusual to take 50 or 60 calls a day. Many of the contractors we spoke with would use colorful language and it wasn’t unusual for them to act like their hair was on fire. Every order was a rush and if you didn’t get it to them yesterday the world would explode.

One day one of our bigger customers laid into me and I got irritated so I asked him why he needed everything “over-nighted” and suggested that I could help him do a better job planning if he would only tell me why it was so important.

The funny thing is that the 27 year-old version of me was reacting to his being a jerk by pushing back but what I learned from that experience was that it was ok if I could show how that would help my customer.

When he told me what he needed and why I was able to show him a way to save time and money which not only made him happy but reduced his stress level.

A Fluke Leads To Victory

Ever since that moment I have made a point to use my experience to my advantage. I learned it because of a fluke but if you won’t tell anyone I won’t either.

Smart businesses and smart business people ask questions.

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