The Power of Follow-Up: Ask Clarifying Questions

Good leaders are also, in some respects, like good investigators. They gather information from many sources as a means of making the best decisions and, in turn, achieving the best possible outcome.

This lesson was reinforced to me in a somewhat unlikely place. A client I’m working with owns a specialty wine shop. As we explored the topic of customer engagement, we discussed the importance of taking the initiative to ask clarifying questions.

Real life example: Customer walks in. He says he wants a dry white wine. But, just as wine gets better with age, this sommelier has also learned over time that his impression of a dry white may not be the customer’s impression of a dry white.

It sounds so simple, but it’s really brilliant.

Instead of guiding said customer to dry whites this wine connoisseur likes, he asks, “What dry whites have you enjoyed?”

Customer describes a German wine. Good thing my client asked. That was NOT his version of a dry white.

But the very definition of “taste” is subjective, so to be able to give his customers what they want, this savvy business owner MUST ask those follow-up questions.

Context = clarity.

That statement about “giving customers what they want” is of utmost importance. If my client hadn’t asked more probing questions of the customer, opting to make the easy sale instead, he would have left the door open to the possibility that customer would have returned home, uncorked bottle and come uncorked himself!

One-time customer could have been left with a bad taste in his mouth – not only for the product itself, but for the person selling it.

Worse yet, he may have assumed my very capable client didn’t know what he was doing.

But my client would never have to worry about dissatisfied consumer walking through the door again.

Learn from the wise sommelier. To get the best long-term satisfaction from YOUR clients, team members or managers, pose the questions that are so critical to your understanding of an issue or dynamic within your organization.

Effective leaders are truth-seekers.

Don’t be satisfied with one perspective or one person’s answer to a solitary question. Do your due diligence. Having a good handle on a situation that is presented and, consequently, the ability to craft the best solution for the situation as it really is (not as you or a few others perceive it) is sometimes only a few clarifying questions away.



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