Raiders of the Lost Art of Questioning

Periodically we don our fedora and safari suit and set out on another quest. In our imagination we are a (younger) Harrison Ford searching for an elusive golden key to the secrets to the universe.

And of course the art of questioning is in some ways a key to the universe. Certainly the universe of sales. But the art of questioning is something of a lost art.

Recently we were reminded that we had become somewhat lax, and the obstacles to travelling the world in our ongoing quest had sidetracked us.

An agent brought a potential tenant to a site (definition of tenant: a party whom an agent introduces and receives a commission for doing so before disappearing, to a landlord who then has an ongoing relationship with for many years).  The agent  didn’t know the name of the party – actually introduced him by the wrong name. Didn’t know the name of the business. Didn’t know what they planned to do with the building. Didn’t know what the business did, or where they were currently located.

In other words, that agent had not even started on their quest to discover the art of asking questions. In all probability they didn’t even know there was such an art!

But an art it is. A good questioner will discover answers to questions they didn’t even know to ask. Because none of us know what we don’t know. And the discovery of what we don’t know is one of the most useful tools in consummating deals.

But back to questioning being an art. Unfortunately it is not one that is taught in property degrees in university. We know that because of the number of times we ask agents questions about properties that they don’t know the answers to; because they had not asked same questions of the vendor.

Knowing the answers in advance (because the appropriate questions have already been asked) gives agents a head start when dealing with clients. We know that, because our preference is always to deal with agents who know how to ask questions.

But we digress from our contention that asking the right questions is a more important skill that should be taught at every level of our education system.

Confucius said “The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life”. Simply by asking questions we are able to determine from potential clients a goldmine of information which will help to ascertain whether the property or investment is likely to be an appropriate fit – or whether another property would work better. Ultimately the decision obviously rests with the client (tenant, landlord, owner-occupier or investor) but by asking appropriate and searching questions in advance, all parties can be saved time and effort. And, as we all know – time is money.