One of the most important aspects of owning a business is building a trusting relationship with your clients. Communication is a key factor in that relationship. Knowing how your clients think and feel will help you better determine and fulfill their needs. In order to really understand the wants and desires of your clients, you need to ask effective questions, ones that will open communication and get the answers that you want.
Tip 1: Don’t ask multiple-choice questions. When people get nervous they tend to ramble. Sometimes when asking a question, you may offer several different answers without even realizing it. Here’s an example, “Which product do you like the most, our shampoo, conditioner or hairspray?” This leads to a limited response and doesn’t tell you how they really feel.
Tip 2: Don’t be afraid of silence. When asking a question, remember to allow your clients ample time to think about it and form an answer. Don’t rush or be too quick to jump in. You’ll find that the quality of the answers you receive will increase.
Tip 3: Ask open-ended questions. Stay away from questions that just require a yes or no answer. Instead, try starting your questions with the 5 Ws (and H)–who, what, where, when, why and how. Adding these simple words to the beginning of your question can take a bad question and turn it into an effective one. “Do you like the product?” vs. “What do you like about the product?”.
Tip 4: Don’t fish. Avoid leading questions–ones that manipulate and try to get the answers you want. Make sure your questions are objective.
Tip 5: Interject with additional questions if necessary. This one is used by journalists to keep the conversation on track. Asking additional questions can make your clients feel like you really care and want to understand them and what they are trying to say. It will also aid in a quality conversation that stays on topic instead of one that goes all over the place.
Tip 6: If you get a non-answer, approach it from a different angle. Journalists are very good at this. If someone hedges or doesn’t directly answer their question, they will try different ways to obtain the same information. Sometimes people intentionally don’t answer the question but other times, people might just ramble without realizing they are not truly answering the question. By trying a different question or angle, you might get better results.
Tip 7: Rephrase the answer in your own words. Psychologists and counselors do this all the time. In order to make sure that you really understand what your clients are trying to say, try rephrasing their answer in your own words. “So you would like to have follow up e-mails after you try our product?” When you rephrase their answer it will let them know you understand or give them the opportunity to clear up details.
Tip 8: Don’t be embarrassed. The worst question is the one not asked. Don’t pretend to know what your clients are thinking. If you want to know something, ask.
You might not always ask the perfect questions, but utilizing these tips will help to open communication with your clients and aid in building strong and trusting relationships.