Open v closed questions

If you want to deal with a specific situation a closed question will get you from A to B in the shortest possible time. For example:

‘Are you happy for me to file your tax return?’ demands a YES/NO reply.

Whereas questions that will empower communication with a client need to be framed as open questions. ‘How are you? What’s been happening to you since we last met?’

Open questions invite open replies. They are the way to seek out problems that demand solutions.

Why is this an important distinction for advisers?

Advisers give advice. No surprises there… But, we deliver advice in two distinct ways:

  1. As an instruction, or
  2. In response to a request for help or assistance.

Whilst instructions can be useful, they might save a client paying too much tax or miss a filing deadline, a request for help – directly or indirectly – will open up the possibility that you can supply a solution. And these solutions, if successful, will be appreciated and carry a premium fee.

You are unlikely to uncover these problems if you restrict conversations with clients to instructions. And the more problems you can encourage clients to reveal, the more opportunities you will have to value bill for your specialist services, to solve problems.

Self-interest v empathy

A self-interested person is the polar opposite of someone who takes an interest in others. Cynically, you might say that peppering conversations with open questions is just a technique to satisfy a business goal, to win more opportunities to sell advisory services. True enough, but across the table the outcomes of your open conversations, if you succeed in helping clients solve their problems, will be a happy person and one that has a growing respect for you and your advice.

There are no downsides to developing and employing empathy, and the simplest way to do this is to ask open questions.

The exchanges will always result in win-win outcomes.

How are you coping with service delivery following the pandemic?

I’d like to know. I have a wealth of experience starting, developing and selling professional practices. If you find the ideas shared on this blog of interest, can I suggest we have a conversation?

You can book a slot in my diary here>>

I have a genuine respect for advisers, I have been at a common coal-face for more years than I care to remember. The recent disruption was, and continues to be, unprecedented. Which means there are a lot of folks out there facing real problems, which as we know, is fertile ground for advisers.

Look forward to speaking with you.

Bob Edwards – LandmarkPD, 4 March 2022 – bob@landmarkpd.co.uk – mobile 07879 8969073.

Bob Edwards

Bob has been working with practices across the UK offering novel ways to improve cross-sales and increase new client acquisitions. He is also interested in "step changes" in legislation that offer challenges, and therefore opportunities, for practitioners to provide new recurring and one-off support services to clients.

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