Excerpted from “Chapter One“Just Ask the Right Questions to Get What You Want” with the permission of the author – Professor Ian Cooper 

It is important to realize that sometimes it isn’t just the questions we ask others that can have the biggest influence over our lives but the questions we ask of ourselves. The business and personal consultants will tell you, that is what strategic thinking is all about.

I don’t disagree. I just want to make the exercise quicker and simpler.

Take a look at my definition of business or personal madness:

Doing today, what you did yesterday and expecting different results!

Once you understand the power of these words it becomes obvious that if you want to get a different, indeed better result, you are going to have to change something.

In my business experience, too many organizations and indeed individuals have a real dilemma. They want better results but they want to carry on exactly as before.

With this in mind the single most important business and personal question that you should be asking is:

What can we do differently?

Again, a statement of the obvious, but when was the last time you pointed your mind at a specific business or personal issue that you would like to improve and asked that question? The problem is that so many aspects of what we do are just automatic, standard and routine habits that we no longer even think to question the way we do them.

Let me give you an example.

A leading professional practice rang me up one day and said that they often have to write tenders and proposals in direct competition with other firms. They explained they had written 12 of these, pitching for substantial pieces of business in the last 18 months. Unfortunately they had not won any of them! When I asked why they thought this was, their head of marketing confessed they didn’t know and that was why they were calling me.

I asked them to send me the 12 written proposals and the details of each opportunity. The next day a van arrived and a relieved courier, glad to get rid of it, heaved this massive package into my arms.

I sat down to read the tenders. The first looked very professional and it made extremely impressive reading. The second, however, was identical in every respect except that the name of the prospect had been changed throughout on a word processor. The third, fourth and indeed all the rest were also exactly the same … word for impressive word!

When I pointed this out to the firm and asked why they were all the same they told me. “Well, the first was so time consuming, we thought it would be good to use this as a template for all tenders. We set up a file on our computer system called ‘Tenders’ that any of our team could tap into. It has really speeded the process up.”

Well, by now I hope you are smiling at this firm’s errors. Having created a system for dealing with tenders, they thought that was it. It was all so routine and systemized that getting the tenders out, had become more important than what they were for.

It’s obvious when you stop and think about it. The problem is, too many people don’t stop and think and ask the question … what can we do differently?

Had this firm done so, they would have realized that they have to treat and write each tender as a separate one according to the individual needs of that prospect. Secondly, what is even more staggering is that they had submitted and failed 12 times before they even thought to ask themselves why they had never won.

Always be prepared to ask, What can I do differently?

From a personal point of view, have you ever sent out large numbers of letters chasing job vacancies and enclosed your CV? What is your success rate? If it is low maybe you need to do something differently!

Note from Bob:  You will want to get your hands on Professor Ian Cooper’s book:  “Just Ask the Right Questions to Get What You Want.”  This was a page-turner for me!  You will be amazed by seeing a multitude of new ways that you will be able to leverage the power of questions.

IanCooper Head shotProfessor Ian Cooper has been described as a ‘serial achiever’, London based, he is an international author of 15 books with in 55 countries and 13 languages, including the successful and influential ‘Financial Times Guide To Business Development’, recently shortlisted for the best management / business book of the year award. In addition to advising hundreds of businesses and organizations of all sizes for over 30 years, Ian is also a successful entrepreneur who has created and run a number of successful businesses. With approximately 1000 professional speaking engagements Ian has inspired thousands of businesses and individuals with his light and engaging style to improve their own performance, get better results and make things happen.  You can connect with Ian on his website.



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