Ask the right questions… get the right answers

Nowadays clients have access to more information than ever before, and many existing and new clients are coming to meetings with an assumption of what they need to do to achieve their goals. Often, however, preconceived ideas do not consider the full story or the range of solutions possible to meet your client’s objectives.

To better deliver on their expectations, it is crucial to uncover the core issues that are important to them. That’s where effective questioning is so important.

Effective questioning

While there are many types of questions, the most common are:

  • Open / Closed
  • Leading
  • Rhetorical
  • Probing
  • Funnelling

Open / Closed

Open questions are those where longer answers are required and generally begin with what why, where and how. To delve a little deeper they can include words like ‘Describe…’. Open questions are good to gather more information and feelings.

Closed questions, on the other hand, require short or one word answers – usually yes or no. Closed questions are good for:

Confirming or testing understand – "So if I invest in this, will you be happy?”

Concluding: "So if we follow this investment plan, is that the right course of action?"

Open questions can be useful at the beginning of a conversation to encourage participation. Closed questions are useful at the end to confirm action. Closed questions in the middle of a conversation can kill a conversation.


These are the questions where you try to influence the client’s thinking, either subtly or not-so-subtly, as the following examples show:

“How are you going with your current budget plan?” (suggesting that the current budget plan might be a challenge)

“Would you like a higher rate of interest or are you happy with Product A?”

With a natural tendency for people to say yes (as opposed to no), this is an example where you can prompt the desired response. Of course leading questions, while useful, risk making the client feel pressured into making a decision!


Rhetorical questions are those where no answer is expected – such as “Isn’t the weather wonderful today?”

Rhetorical questions are good to draw in a listener who may be not saying much in the conversation.

Probing or trigger questions

These types of questions are useful when trying to find out more detail, particularly if you feel that information is being withheld. One good technique with probing questions is to be specific by using such words as ‘exactly’.

“Can you tell me exactly what you didn’t like with your last super fund?”


The funnelling questioning technique brings different types of questions together to lead toward a response. The aim is, ultimately, to ask more specific questions to get the information you want.

Often funnelling questions start with a closed question to draw out information before moving to open questions to draw out information. A simple example might be:

“Do you have children?”

“How many”
“Two. A boy and a girl”

“How old are they?”
“6 and 4”

“What do you think is important for their financial security?”

Questioning situations

Depending on your situation, and what you want to achieve, different questioning techniques may be used.

Learning: Probing questions and open questions (using the funnelling technique) are good for finding out more about clients.

Managing and coaching: where you would like to direct or coach clients, rhetorical or leading questions can be useful. “Do you see why diversifying your investments will work in this situation?”

Addressing a conflict: Funnel questions are a good way to get a client to open up with details on a particular issue especially if it is a sensitive one. Also when addressing a conflict introducing language such as ‘we’ and ‘us’ lets the client feel a part of the solution. This can uncover something which can be addressed immediately and therefore help defuse a situation.

Clarification: closed questions are a good way to round out conversations or to confirm or clarify what has been uncovered from probing and open questions

The modern client expects solutions quickly. To make sure you uncover all of their needs – and therefore offer the right solution, it’s important to ask the right questions. These techniques are a useful way to make sure you are asking the right questions… to get the right answers.

The information contained in this newsletter is provided on behalf of the IOOF group of companies and is intended for financial adviser use only. It is given in good faith and has been prepared based on information that is believed to be accurate and reliable at the time of publication. Any examples are for illustration purposes only and are based on the continuance of present laws and our interpretation of them at the time.