By Neil Phillips.

If you’ve been in direct sales for even the briefest time, you’ve learned how important it is to ask questions.  Questions give you the inside information on people.  You learn to ask F.O.R.M. questions (family, occupation, recreation, motivation) and to offer choices (Tuesday or Thursday?  Silver or Gold?  Weight loss or muscle building?).  In short, much of your success is built on knowing what question to ask at the right time.

Have you ever thought about asking yourself questions?  It’s only a small step past singing along with the radio in your car.  How about having a Q-A session the next time you are driving alone?  As it turns out, asking and answering questions is better than just making statements.  Here’s why.

When you ask yourself a question, you stop thinking about other things.  Your mind is a marvel, and, yet, it only does one conscious thing at a time.  Your brain doesn’t multitask—it switches back and forth among thoughts.  (Think about your last conference call when you were also reading your email.  Not much made an impression, did it?)  Your mind focuses when you ask a question.  It stops flitting to other ideas until it answers the question.  The better the question, the more time you will focus on creating the answer.  Look at these two choices and tell me which person got the better start.

  1. Rebecca pushes her kids out to the bus and then says to herself, “I’ve got so much to get done today. I don‘t know how I’m going to do it all.” She then jumps into work.
  2. Susan pushes her kids out to the bus and then asks herself, “What’s the most important thing to accomplish today?”

Open-ended questions work differently than closed questions.  An open-ended question is like the essay question you hated in school.  A closed question is the T-F or multiple choice type.  When you ask a closed question, you take away alternatives from your thinking.  An open-ended question lets your brain throw open the file cabinets of images, movies, conversations, etc.  Your brain will mix and match huge amounts of facts and alternatives in nanoseconds to come up with the best answer you can.  You can use different types of questions to create effectiveness.  For example:

  • What goals should I set for next month? (open)
  • How can my personal business get better next month? (open)
  • Who on my team are the highest priorities next month? (open)
  • What’s most important to be doing now? (open)
  • Should I call Marie or Kelly first? (closed)
  • Should I call my consultant or my host? (closed)

Questions influence your choices.  When you ask questions about the past, you are trying to understand.  When you ask questions about the future, you are setting a course.  Think about your last conversation with a potential new consultant.  When you ask yourself, “How did that go?” You are sorting through the conversation thinking about cause-effects reactions.  When you ask, “What should I say next time?” you are creating choices for the future.

Your brain loves answering questions.  When you ask a question instead of telling yourself what to do, your entire brain gets active as it reflects, it releases serotonin (ah, the natural drug to relax). This encourages gathering intelligence from all areas of the brain. As serotonin is released, a rush of energy (or insight) occurs as the brain fires up, moves ahead and discovers the solutions to a problem. You become motivated and ready to do something. This burst of energy to take care of the problem is short lived, so take advantage of it quickly.  The next time you attending a training session, ask yourself a key question before you leave.  Ask, “What will I do with this in the next 48 hours?”

So the next time you are home alone or driving somewhere, start a conversation with the smartest person around.  Ask questions and then answer them.  You will be amazed at the clarity and energy that you create for your leadership and your team.

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