In a recent discussion in the Linked-in Account Manager Group I asked Account Managers “Can you recommend some of the best questions you ask your clients”.
Many Account Managers from different industries offered their suggestions based on their knowledge and experience.
Here are the 5 most frequently mentioned questions:
1. What do you want to achieve?
Many people cited finding out client objectives and goals as fundamental.
Jordan Walters suggests that everything you ask should be predicated on the customer’s goals. So questions like ‘What are your goals as an organisation’? are key.
Mohammed Sadiq agrees that aligning yourself with the client’s objectives is the first thing you need to do by asking questions like ‘What plan do you have to achieve your objectives?’ and ‘How can I contribute to that plan?’.
2. What’s not working?
Another important question is about establishing what isn’t currently working or what hasn’t worked in the past for your client.
These might be questions around a current service provider that’s not delivering for them or a product or service they are not happy with.
Ken McWilliams asks ‘When you have produced videos in the past, what didn’t you like? Not only does this give him insight into the client’s communication style but also gauges their level of knowledge about the industry.
Cass D’Arion says ‘there are no magical scripts to follow but you need to craft your questions to reveal what your customers concerns are and what their experiences have been because prospects buy what they already like and avoid what has disappointed them’.
3. What keeps you up at night?
One of the most effective ways to ensure you are delivering exactly what the client needs is to first find out what their biggest challenges are.
Greg Clark recommends a useful model FUDWACA to help you remember to ask questions like ‘What are you Frustrated with/Upset by/Disappointed with/Worried about/Anxious about/ Concerned with/Angry about’.
Both Greg and Emmanuel Jim Alarcon use the question ‘What keeps you awake at night’? to help them understand what’s important to the client.
4. How can I work with you?
Sometimes it’s appropriate to simply ask the client outright how you can win their business.
James Elliott loves to ask his clients ‘ok so can you tell me how I’m going to get my product on your shelf’?
Or if you are selling a service, this might translate to something like ‘what will it take to win your business’?
Mark Mozart asks ‘What are your expectations with regards to the service my company would provide for you?’
But as Kay Dryer points out ‘the key is to remember the relationship is not what you want or need but what will make their business better’.
5. Who else is involved in this decision?
Before we become too pleased with ourselves for asking the client all the right questions and understanding their challenges and needs, we also need to consider that there may be more people involved in the decision to purchase your product or service.
Often there are several people on the client side who need to be consulted before a final decision is made.
Carey Rudd says one of his favourite questions is ‘Who else is involved in the decision process?’.
You will save lots of time and effort if you ask this question early on.
More tips from the group
And there were some excellent tips about asking great questions from some of the other contributors during the discussion thread:
It’s a process
While having specific questions ready is good, they form part of a successful process Bill Sweeney explains.
Bill goes on to provide an effective 4 step process;
Too many times we as Account Managers go in believing we can solve every problem and know what the problem that needs solving is. Listening to the customer is key to forming the right questions and developing the urgency of their need.
2. Don’t enter in the discussion with tunnel vision
You may be there to talk about or present one program or idea and pick up on multiple other opportunities that you can draw upon through follow-up questions.
3. Repeat back your understanding
Before asking any questions repeat back your understanding of the cutomers need and confirm you are on the same path with them.
4. Don’t be afraid of silence
It’s ok to take a few moments to process the discussion and formulate the proper questions. In fact, I’ve found that my customers sometimes appreciate it when I say “let me take a moment to process that”, then ask open-ended probing questions about the current task at hand. But never leave without asking questions about at least one other need you picked up on while listening, thereby planting the seed for the next opportunity to grow.
Shut up and listen
Cass D’Arion agrees that Account Managers should ‘Ask your questions and shut up and listen. Feed back to them the salient points they are making. It shows you are actually concerned about what they are saying instead of waiting for your turn to talk’.
Carey Rudd adds ‘One of my first really good Sales Managers used to say if you listen to your customer they will tell you how, what and when to sell to them’.
Challenge their thinking
Mads Rosen says while he doesn’t have a specific list of questions he asks, he believes in sometimes saying no to customer requests and responding with challenging questions instead.
Read between the lines
Jermaine Edwards adds an exceptionally good point about being able to read between the lines ‘The most powerful questions come from a deeper place of being able to read between the lines of what the customer or prospect is saying to you. There are deeper levels of listening that are not just about words but are connected to understanding the person and environment they work in. If you can respond and ask questions on that level then you can be build rapport and trust very quickly and in some cases the buying process’.
If you’d like to improve your ability to ask great questions and in the process grow client business, you might ‘How to grow business by asking great questions’.
Do you have any great questions you regularly ask your clients to help you develop or win the business? If so please leave a comment in the box below.