To provide your clients with the right solution for their business (be it product or service), success lies in understanding the client’s needs, pain points and aspirations for their business. In an ideal world a client would come to you and tell you they need your xyz product to fix their abc issue, however it’s rarely as simple as that.
To understand what your client needs, and often to help them to clarify this for themselves, you need to be asking the right questions.
Start by finding out what their present situation looks like. If it’s a general conversation or meeting, ask questions about the business. Ask open ended questions (those that ask what, why, how, when, who) to build a picture of the current position. For example, “How’s business this quarter?”, “What’s keeping you awake at night?”, “What are your competitors doing at the moment?”, “Who’s winning the most business?”.
If the meeting is specifically to look at a solution the questions can be more focused, for example, if you’re discussing the need for a new online ordering process, ask the client to describes the current process. Drill down and get them to describe the process in detail, perhaps even mapping on a whiteboard for you. As they explain the process, ask which parts they’d like to improve and why?
Ask open ended questions and probing questions to deep dive into the heart of the matter. As a client answers your questions what they really need becomes clearer to you and to them.
When you want to hone in on a particular point either for emphasis, or to confirm you’ve understood correctly, ask some closed questions (those that require single word answers like yes or no) to clarify. “So your sales were down 5% last quarter?”, “Your competitor’s new app is wowing the market right now?”, “Your employees won’t book their hotels on your online booking tool?”.
Once the current situation is clear, start to ask your next set of questions around the future.
Do they discuss with colleagues how the process could be improved? What are some of those ideas? What will happen if they don’t change the process? What would happen if the process is improved? What do their clients ask for in an app? How many more clients could they convert if they had that app? What would be an even better app?
From here you should have a clear picture of the current state, pain point or business goal and a list of opportunities where value can be added. These are the ideas you can take back to your team, or your own drawing board, to design the best solution to present to your client, or propose the right product or service you have to fit that need.
Don’t be tempted to try and jump to the solution before you’ve heard and understood in detail what the client has today and where they need to get to. You need to listen and understand their pain points and goals before you can provide a solution that is individual to them and their needs.
Go into a meeting prepared with some standard questions to get you started and then expand on these as you get greater insight from the client. If you’re meeting separately with people from one organisation ask some similar questions to get a feel for whether everyone in the organisation is on the same page. Does everyone see the issue or need the same way? Do they in fact have the same needs? Or is there more than one solution you can offer? More than one approach to help the client get to the end goal?
The key to selling value is identifying the need and providing the solution and to do this you need to ask the right questions and listen carefully to the answers. Providing value to your clients builds trust which leads to open communication where your client readily shares their business challenges and goals, enabling you to work with them to provide solutions. An ongoing cycle of success.
Are you asking the right questions?