In every job you win and every new customer you meet, there might be a wealth of other work to be had, either now or in the future. The keys to unlocking this work are not being afraid to ask a few questions and knowing what questions to ask.
Putting the focus on your customer:
There are lots of fancy sales techniques and business theories that tell you how to engage with your customers to win a sale. But most of them focus on what you say and how you drive toward the goal you want, but what about the customer’s goal? Shouldn’t we keep some focus on the customer’s perspective? What about the simple act of asking them bigger questions and finding out their larger needs?
In a March 2015 article, The Harvard Business Review revisits the “Art of Asking Questions” https://hbr.org/2015/03/relearning-the-art-of-asking-questions and claims that in our “Laser-like focus on immediate tasks”, we tend to “jump to conclusions instead of asking more questions.” When trying to win a landscaping or pavement maintenance contract, this can’t be a good thing.
Though written more for corporate strategy teams, the article gives some great insights into how service industry companies can ask different types of questions to better clarify, understand, and influence what your customers need and want.
For example: consider these four types of questions — (…and how asking them can help your business)
Clarifying questions help us better understand what has been said. — (…if you understand the customer better than your competitors, you can quote them what they need better than the competition.)
Adjoining questions are used to explore related aspects of the problem that are ignored in the conversation. — (…making your customers think about unforeseen challenges elevates your credibility.)
Funneling questions are used to dive deeper. — (…helping you challenge assumptions and understand root causes of problems, so you’re more prepared to execute their job well.)
Elevating questions raise broader issues and highlight the bigger picture. — (…letting you take a step back and talk about bigger issue, possibly revealing a greater scope of work.)
Dealing with YOUR customers
Commercial Landscaping and Asphalt Maintenance professionals, are often dealing with property managers who have a whole variety of needs and challenges.
By asking questions and understanding their particular needs better than your competitors, you can position yourself as an advisor as well as someone who can execute for them. Advise them well, and you can build the kind of trust that leads to stronger business relationships and lucrative contracts.
Residential Landscaping and Asphalt Maintenance professionals, are often dealing with homeowners who aren’t always sure what they want.
By asking them about their projects and their overall goals, you can often reveal opportunities to expand your service or bring about ideas for future work. And by listening and engaging the customer instead of just knocking out the work they contacted you about, you increase your chances of positive reviews and referrals.
Asking Questions as a Sales tool:
In both cases, it can be beneficial to help the client understand how you can help him with the problems he has… it’s an important part of selling yourselves that good salesmen “get” by instinct, but which anyone can learn through practice.
And while it’s great to win the job you’re bidding, isn’t it even better to win the work the customer didn’t know he needed?
And the worst thing to do is to ask no questions at all.
What questions do you always like to ask your customers and how do they help you?