The Client-centred Blog

The power of an incisive question

Incisive questions challenge habitual thinking

Questions are important. They make us think. Especially the right question at just the right moment.

An incisive question is powerful because it removes a limiting assumption that then allows your client to look at something in a new and completely different way. It may be something apparently small or obvious, but it can make a big impact. 

Asking the right question at just the right moment is linked to our powers of intuition.

An incisive question causes a moment of deep reflection

I was recently listening to someone telling the story of how they had begun a new and exciting phase of their life by starting a small business.

It was something they had thought about doing in the past but had never gotten beyond this stage.

Not until they had a conversation with their financial planner.

They were in discussion and a question occurred to the planner. He asked his client:

‘Do you want to be an employee for the rest of your life?’

That one single question caused deep reflection in the client’s mind. And the answer came as a very clear ‘No’.

Together, they explored the possibilities and the implications. The client discovered it was feasible and entirely realistic, so he made the move and has not looked back since.

I should add that the planner had no investment in what his client decided. The question was asked innocently, which was why it was powerful.

I found this an inspiring story.

An incisive question can change a life for the better

One of my favourite books is Nancy Kline’s ‘Time to Think’. In it she writes…

‘An incisive question, crafted with precision and lustre, is any question that removes limiting assumptions from your thinking so that you can think again.’

We all make assumptions that limit us. We become trapped within the confines of this thinking and alternatives do not look viable, realistic, or possible.

An incisive question asked by someone else, who has no agenda, causes us to reflect. Perhaps more deeply than we have ever done before.

Can you plan for asking incisive questions?

I do not think so. They are not something you can have pre-prepared, ready to pull out, like a rabbit out of a hat.

So, what can you do?

One of our most useful, yet ignored, assets is intuition. 

But if you go and take your financial planning qualifications you will not learn anything about intuition, will you?

Yet the most powerful planners, the ones who have the biggest positive impact in the lives of their clients, are highly intuitive. They understand that getting a client to open up is not a mechanical, intellectual process, you have to appeal to the emotional side as well (read my post, ‘Why challenging your clients is great for business’)

We live in a world that often puts style before substance. There is far too much emphasis on process. For instance, financial planning is taught as a linear, step driven activity.

But is this all it is?

To listen deeply you have to let go of all of that mechanical styling because it gets in the way.

When you listen with nothing on your mind you are not only paying attention to your client, you are also more aware of what comes up from deeper within you.

Intuition is beyond the intellect. It is where an incisive question emerges from and why it can be so powerful – it comes from wisdom, not memory.

You can’t prepare for an incisive question, or even plan to be the one asking them. But you can make it more likely to happen, if you pay attention to your intuition.

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