The Art of Asking Questions – Millennial Marketer Series, SMPS Pittsburgh

Are you clairvoyant? I’m not. I don’t know many people who are. So how do you get inside your client’s head to know how to solve their problems, ease their pain, or just connect with them on a personal level? You simply ask questions. Yes, it is that easy!

First, it is important to understand that selling is not a convincing process. It is a discovery process. It is about discovering information concerning your client, their needs, their organization, or their next project. The only way you can capture this information is to ask them questions.

Let’s see how it works. Say you want to get to the right person in your client’s organization to discuss the next RFP that is planned to be issued and who might be on the selection panel. You want to make sure you are talking to the person who is the decision-maker or the influencer. They are the ones who will have the answers you are seeking. How do you know you are talking to the right person? By asking:

 

Q: “Are you the person who will be making the final selection?”
A: “No”
Q: “Who will be?” “Is it possible for me to talk to her?”
A: “No”
Q: Perhaps I can schedule a meeting through her assistant at a more convenient time?”

It sounds so elemental, but without practicing this basic technique, you could end up awkwardly tongue-tied in your conversation – or worse, left standing at the door.
Once you get an audience with the appropriate person, if you have not established a relationship yet, you may feel slightly bashful, so a great place to start is simply by “asking permission to ask a question!”

 

Example:

Q: “Would you mind if I asked you a few questions about your project?” Or,
Q: “Are you at liberty to discuss the project?”

I don’t know of anyone who will refuse to answer these questions unless you have truly stepped into the most secret of organizations!

Once engaged, be ready to pull out other questions from your tool box such as: “Are you expecting to release an RFP soon?” “Will you send it to other bidders?” “When is the construction schedule starting?” “Can you share with me some of the most difficult issues you are facing on this project?” You certainly don’t want to be a nuisance – but it is important to find out why the client needs the work done and what the expectations of the project are. What does success look like to your client? If you display honest curiosity you will uncover your clients’ pain points. In some instances, you can even ask how much the project will cost, or how much the client has to spend. Sometimes your client can tell you and sometimes they can’t, won’t, or don’t know. But in any event, if you never ask, you will never know.

Once you get comfortable with actually engaging in a conversation with your clients, you will be amazed at how quickly you will establish rapport with them—and that leads to a relationship —and even to a trusted friendship. If you truly care about your client, and deal with your client in an honest, open manner, by thinking about their needs more than your own desire to sell your services, you will achieve this special consulting relationship, and you will become a better Millennial Marketer!

Oh, and by the way, what’s the most important point of all of this? When you ask a question – LISTEN!

 

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