The only thing to fear is a marketer who doesn’t ask questions.

We begin our lives with an innate and necessary curiosity. Children are prolific in their question-asking. But sometime between childhood and adulthood, the questioning gets stifled by instruction. The biggest influencers in our lives – our parents, siblings, teachers – tell us exactly how to do things. When we push back and ask why, we’re told that’s just the way it is. Eventually, we stop asking and start following. By the time we become adults and join the workforce, it’s not that we don’t have questions but rather that we no longer have the gumption to ask them. This is fear at its finest and most destructive.

The fear of asking questions manifests in many ways:

  • Fear of revealing that you don’t know the answer yourself
  • Fear of slowing down the process
  • Fear of being perceived as not going with the flow
  • Fear of confrontation for calling out inconsistent views

Great marketers get over their fear of asking questions in general and bust out of the corporate culture that tells them they shouldn’t ask. Before setting out to tackle a problem, they pause and challenge themselves: “Are we asking the right tough questions?”

Beyond gathering information, great questions:

  • Inject energy,
  • Inspire better approaches,
  • Build rapport and trust,
  • Create clarity, and
  • Challenge assumptions.

But it’s not just about asking any old questions. It’s about asking the right questions.

While fear is the reason we don’t ask enough questions, bias is often the reason we don’t ask the right ones. So often, we’re attached to our own point of view and we focus on proving it. This usually happens with the absolute best of intentions. We think we are right and we are doing our colleagues a favour. Or, we’re saving the larger group some time by providing the answer rather than letting them find it. Or, we’ve been thinking about our point of view for so long that we have confidence – it feels right.

The right questions are business-changing questions. By definition, they suggest that change is required, that we may not be doing things right today. And that suggestion can be a political minefield.

The tough business-changing questions cut through politics, bias, and discomfort to clarify the problem, force choices, and drive action. You won’t find business-changing questions in consumer surveys or pinging off the walls in a focus group room. They don’t linger in the hallways waiting to be discovered. They’re not overheard around the water cooler.

Business-changing questions come from the marketers and leaders who truly want to change the business. They ask the right tough questions.