To ask, or not to ask, that is the question.
Some time ago, I met my ex-colleague for a long-overdue catch-up. Over coffee and bagels, we talked about kids (not mine, obvi), who’s dating again, and more interestingly, who’s in whose hair.
Inadvertently, with the grim outlook of the economy weighing heavily on everyone’s mind, the tone of our conversation took a serious turn. The impact of COVID-19 on the economy has been broad and significant. Numerous businesses have been challenged; some were forced to succumb while others, like e-commerce, experienced wind in their sails. Then there were others who pivoted and created enough value for their consumers to remain loyal to their brands during the crisis.
Regardless of the industry we are in, or the job responsibilities assigned to us, we should always put our ear to the ground so that we remain relevant to our consumers. And one of the easiest ways to gather information is, simply, to ask questions.
Whether it is B2B or B2C, now more than ever, we need to be empathetic to our clients. They will come to you with their worries and concerns. They will come to you to seek help. And whenever I encounter such a situation, I will respond with more questions to help the client and my agency gain clarity on their predicament.
It is important to ask the right questions so we can better understand their needs and objectives. I’m going to share more on the importance of asking questions in the following pointers. I hope fellow relationship managers and sales professionals will find the pointers useful, but I reckon anyone who is in the business of creating value for their consumers and ultimately, their businesses, will find the tips handy.
Ready? Okay, scroll.
1. To assume is to make an ass out of you and me (cliché, but true)
It may sound counter-intuitive but I often reply to a client’s questions (such as, can you help me with social media/SEO/website design?) by asking him more questions. It certainly doesn’t insinuate any indifference on my part towards his questions; rather, I believe that in doing so, it helps to rid myself and my team of any ill-fated assumptions. And at the same time, it allows the other party to really express themselves in their own words.
Here are some fact-finding questions:
- What do you do?
- What objectives are you trying to meet?
- What challenges are you facing?
- Why is it (whatever that is) important?
- What are your timeline and budget?
The two-way conversation gives the client a chance to be involved in the problem-solving process. It sheds light on what he or she finds value in, and often, the solution isn’t what was asked for in the first place.
2. Be value-driven
Which do you think is more valuable – someone taking the time to listen to your problem, or someone giving you the answers right away?
At The Outsiders Co., we believe in arriving at a solution with the client rather than for the client. Asking pointed questions helps us to uncover issues that might have previously blindsided the client. Engaging in smart and diligent probing leads to useful discoveries and eventually, solutions. With the game plan in plain sight, it is easier for the client and my agency to work together to bring the plan to fruition.
And that is the value that my team and I bring to the table.
3. Treasure is not always in plain sight
How does a treasure get found? Have you seen a treasure chest just lying on a sandy beach, clearly marked and labelled? Well, if there is, GRAB IT!
Questions are the shovel I wield in my search for solutions (the treasure!) I ask questions that dig deep into my clients’ businesses in order to learn more about their situation, challenges, objectives, and goals. Though some were averse to sharing at the beginning, they eventually came around to it after realising that it would help us dig in the right places to discover the right solutions.
Sometimes, I am fortunate to meet a client who will tell me everything about the business. And that, is a treasure chest in plain sight on the sandy beaches right? Then, I will need to look into my toolbox and wield the sieve (discerning questions) this time to filter the unnecessary so that only valuable and critical information is retained.
And there you have it – whether you are in a B2B or B2C sector, asking questions and coming up with solutions together with the client is the way forward in a customer-centric economy.
And now, I have a question for you – think I might be able to help you or direct you to someone who can? Drop me a message and we can get down to some questioning!
Esther is the Account Director at The Outsiders Co. and wears many hats as our finance and human resources professional. She is a philomath when it comes to learning about businesses and their stories. Her attentiveness and empathy also make her the best listener one can ask for.
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