This is a guest post courtesy of Marketing MEANS on why it’s of paramount importance to ASK QUESTIONS of your clients and customers.
Don’t assume you have all the answers, because you know what happens when you assume, right? (You make an a… OK you got it.)
Call them up if you need to!
Post a blog post or a survey! Just do it! M’kay? (Totally done with the exclamation points now, I swear.)
Why do we avoid asking our customers the questions we fear?
Fostering a culture of questioning within your company can unlock new business opportunities and streamline performance.
It seems only logical that answers follow questions.
If we are to have answers, then we must ask questions.
However, business people today continue to base their planning and forecasting off their own assumptions rather than simply asking their customers. This can lead to some very poor results and dire consequences.
Assumptions in business can be quite disastrous really.
Admit You’re Not a Mind Reader
While it is the height of business acumen to know one’s customer, it is still in this day and age impossible to read your customer’s mind.
No matter how much information you have learned about that customer, how well you believe you know that client’s needs, there is always a possibility that course-changing circumstances have arisen of which you are unaware.
A Case Study in Inattention
Far too often, the well-meaning salesperson calls up a customer “just to touch base.” After a few moments of friendly chatter the call is ended.
The salesman assumes that all is well and there are no changes in the current relationship, since if there were, surely the customer would have mentioned it.
Keep in mind that this customer was occupied with her day and probably not anticipating a sales call.
She might have meant to mention that a downturn in business has caused her to need to cancel a next shipment with your company.
With her focus currently on managing her business that day, trying to mitigate the losses caused by said downturn, she failed to mention her need to cancel.
The customer likely wanted to politely end the call as quickly as possible and get back to running her business. (Understandable.)
Was it the customer’s responsibility to tell the salesperson of their desire to cancel that month’s order, or was it the duty of the salesperson to ask the customer if any changes needed to be made that month?
Now the routine shipment will go out as previously scheduled and the customer will be upset.
Returns and refunds will have to be processed. Commissions will be lost, feelings will be hurt, and the relationship winds up damaged.
There could be serious financial consequences for the salesperson and his company. And no doubt, it all could have been avoided had the salesperson asked his customer the right questions instead of making wrong assumptions.
Critics of this scenario are quick to protest:
“But it’s not the salesperson’s fault! How could he have known”?
He could have asked.
“I am preparing your shipment delivery for this Friday, is that still a good delivery date”?
That question would likely have triggered the customer’s thought processes and she would have explained how fortunate it was that he called, because due to an unforeseen downturn the shipment should be postponed.
Fear of Rejection?
It is asserted that business people sometimes do not ask questions because they are afraid of the answer they might get.
In the above scenario, the salesperson feared giving the customer the opportunity to cancel her shipment.
If she cancelled, his commission would be lost. So he made assumptions (bad assumptions in this case), that ended up causing him to lose more than just a sales commission.
Question Everything – Inside and Out
This theory applies to all aspects of business life.
There are internal customers as well as external.
- Workers fear asking for a raise.
- A manager fears asking a director about upcoming changes in staffing plans.
- Service personnel fear the customer will be angry if they ask about satisfaction levels.
- A customer service department fears running customer satisfaction surveys in case feedback is all negative.
Fear of asking questions because of the possible answer is illogical and destructive.
The result can be lost time, energy and money; skewed reports and forecasts; and a loss of trust and confidence in the business relationship.
The negative consequences of not asking the questions often surpass that of the feared answer that inhibited the question in the first place.
The take away from this discussion should be:
Always Ask – Never Assume!
Precise information is required to make sound business decisions.
Wild assumptions open the door to miscalculation, flawed results, and missed opportunities. The smart business person trains himself and his employees to value the customer’s answer, even if it is an unpleasant one.
It is far more productive to plug that answer into the equation and then work to resolve the negativity, than it is to avoid the question and rely on assumptions.
Treat business information as if a life depended on it. If a person experiences symptoms that might indicate a serious medical condition, would the wise path be to assume that it’s nothing really?
Or to go to a hospital and ask for a doctor’s diagnosis?
Don’t fear asking a question for fear of the answer
One great sales trainer has taught that to get to a YES, you must first get nine NO’s!
The concept is to learn that rejection happens. Rejection is a fact of life, especially in business life.
If one fears being told “NO!” then the question is never asked. If one never asks the question, how can one expect to get a “YES!”?
Develop the mental attitude that YES arises from NO.
YES follows NO.
Acceptance follows rejection.
Do not expect to get to YES until first passing through NO.
Training the thought process in this way eliminates the fear of NO, the fear of rejection, the fear of asking questions. A practice that can only contribute to the betterment and success of your business.
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