I once went to an expensive hair stylist. I was about to start talking when the stylist already passed judgment.
“Sir, keep your hair long in the front so that you don’t look bald.”
I never went back to that stylist!
If you are in a services business, your customer’s delight depends on your critical capability – the ability to ask the right questions. After a customer awards a project to you and before you ‘do it’ what do you ask her?
If you don’t ask anything, you may use a one-size-fits-all solution. Your clients don’t get what they want. They get what you have. If you ask the right questions, you can understand what the client wants; she feels listened to and you connect with the client.
There’s another important reason. Most solutions you give your clients tend to be within a range — a range of cost, a range of time, a range of quality, and a range of scale. And results and what it costs your customer vary wildly if you assume, instead of asking the client what exactly she needs.
The right thing to do is to ask. Take your own business scenario, and you could ask the following questions to start with:
- What are you trying to accomplish? (maybe you can suggest an alternative)
- What are your key priorities (quality, time lines, budget?)
- What is your budget?
- When do you want the deliverables and are time lines negotiable? You could tell the client if it saves money or improve quality with delayed deliverables.
- Can you point to samples that you think are good?
Asking questions gives you an opportunity to listen. I had earlier written about how to lock in your clients by listening to them. Stan Christensen, an expert in negotiation, says that in negotiation (which is what you do every day with your clients) listening can be very persuasive. Below is the video about listening in negotiation. Hope you enjoy it!
(You can also listen to the full length podcast of his presentation.)
In a service business, asking the right questions is not a one-time activity. You have to do that EVERY time you have a new client or a new project. So you may as well build that into your process. That helps repeat success.
I enjoy asking questions and knowing others’ perspective. In addition, it helps me deliver higher quality of service.
What do you ask clients? How does that help you in your business?
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Chaitanya Sagar is the Co-Founder and CEO of p2w2, an online marketplace for services like writing, software, graphic design, virtual assistance, business consulting and research. Chaitanya blogs at p2w2 blog. He is fascinated by entrepreneurship and the difference technology can make in people’s lives.