In this article we focus on the power of asking questions as a means to differentiate yourself and outplay your competition. The key to any successful business relationship stems from a strong connection with your customer. Relationships are key components and time must be invested to build these relationships before you attempt to pitch a new contract or product. This is especially important in situations where you do not know the customer. These 'prospects' have no idea what it is like to work with you and your company. More importantly, they may have already have a different perception of your brand, based on outside feedback. I recommend you meet with your future customer and invest the time and energy needed to completely understand their organization, culture, success, pains and goals. This is their business and they are passionate about it. You want their business to be yours. At this point, it is what you should be concentrating on, fully. Advise them that your whole business revolves around the customer relationship and that you want to uncover their specific needs. Customers love to talk about themselves and will appreciate that you are there to help them solve problems.
Like I said, it's their business and they want it to succeed. You're there to facilitate their success. Your client will see the genuine nature in you, and your company.
Demonstrate a strong sense of empathy for your customer's current situation. Show flexibility and that you are a problem solver.
Remember, you are not there to simply sell yourself rather your intention is focused on cultivating a relationship. The last thing your customer needs, or wants for that matter, is another one-sided sales pitch. Take on the role of 'catcher' instead of 'pitcher'. Here you'll find out as much of their pain as possible and begin to understand that their needs really are.
Here are some helpful tips:
- Schedule regular discovery meetings with your customer on a quarterly basis. Here are some questions:
Q. What type of resources are you lacking?
Q. What research or relevant articles are you in need of?
- Send information of interest at regular intervals.
- Offer your technical assistance in developing the RFP specifications.
- Offer your assistance in developing feasibility studies.
- Provide a list of customer references.
- Take great notes. Try to avoid recording the session.
- Write down the important facts. It shows more trust and integrity.
- Uncover important needs or 'pain points'.
- Every fifteen minutes, repeat the main points you have heard. This demonstrates active listening.
- At the end of the meeting, summarize and review a list of tasks and ask how you can be of further assistance.
- Send a 'thank you' note or card, two days following the meeting and make sure you follow up on the items that may require immediate action.
This approach will help build trust, articulate your integrity, and engender a strong sense of confidence with your client. It goes a long way in demonstrating that you and your company are solution providers and this will help you make a lasting impression on your customer. A lasting impression can evolve into a permanent relationship.