Skilled consultants know that clients are not always able to articulate their needs. Hence, there is often a question behind the question being posed in the scope of the work. The skilled consultant is able to uncover what the customer really wants through asking specific types of questions.
These questions typically fall into five categories:
1. Probing Questions - these questions get to the heart of the problem or situation. Examples include, "Can you provide a specific example?" and "What steps have you taken to resolve the problem?" These questions should be open-ended to give the client a chance to elaborate.
2. Clarifying Questions - ask clarifying questions to ensure understanding of the problem or situation. Examples include "Do I understand you correctly to be saying...?" and "When you say ‘x,' what do you mean?"
3. Process Questions - these questions ensure your client understands you. These questions include, "Do you have any questions about what we've been talking about?" and "Do you need some time to think these things over?"
4. Empathetic Questions - These demonstrate that you are on the same page as your client, and that you are listening, thus leading to a good relationship. Examples are "Does this situation frustrate you?" or "It appears that you're feeling overwhelmed."
5. Meta-Questions - These questions ask about the questioning process. They help your clients to remember pertinent information. Examples include, "What question do you think I should have asked?" or "If I were to start now, what will your staff wish we had discussed?"