Are you asking the right questions?
Whichever your job is, you are interacting with customers. You are interacting with customers unless you sit behind the screen all day and speak to no one —and I mean, speak to one via any means of communication.
Customers could be internal or external. In both cases, you work to gain their trust.
If you haven’t gained your customers’ trust, your day-to-day job wouldn’t be so much fun.
Internal customers include your boss, your colleagues in the team or other departments you interact with. Building trust with internal customers takes time and once that trust is established, you are pretty much the King or Queen of your area of expertise.
If you happen to interact with external customers, you will find yourself with the constant challenge of working to build trust with new customers. Every day, you meet new customers, you get introduced and you are put right under the pressure of establishing yourself in that very first impression.
First impressions last forever, they say.
Whether you are going for an interview, starting a new job, joining a new team, or working with a new customer, the very first step on enjoying your ride with that new encounter is ensuring that you have gained their trust.
One way to do that is you start by asking questions.
You ask questions because you want to know more, you want to learn what they are doing, who are they and what are their challenges. You ask questions because the more you understand them, the better you can serve them.
You ask questions because a clueless mind is a useless one.
Some questions intrigue them. Some questions make them think of things they have never thought of before. Some questions reveal answers they didn’t know they had. Some questions open up their minds to opportunities they never thought of. Some questions will drive you closer to them.
… and some questions will make them want to run away from you as far as they can.
Which questions are those you might ask?
Those are the lazy questions.
Lazy questions are questions that you would have known the answer if you have done some research and homework on your own. Lazy questions have the answers on the customers’ website. Lazy questions have answers in their brochures. Lazy questions have answers on Google’s first page of search results.
Lazy questions include, but are not limited to:
- What industry are you in?
- How many branches do you have? Where are you located?
- What products/ services do you offer?
- What are some rules or laws that impact what you offer to your customers?
We are blessed with the Internet, so make the best out of it before shooting lazy questions.
Alright, let’s imagine a scenario with some lazy questions.
Imagine you are meeting with a new client to work on a new project. The client works in an industry you are not familiar with. You are there to help the client in your area of expertise, be it technology, finance or marketing. Let’s just say that your area of expertise is industry-agnostic, which means, your knowledge can be applied to any industry.
You are excited to start working with that client and you schedule a meeting to get to know them better so you are able to cater your solution to their needs.
Instead of doing your homework and reading about their industry, and going through their website to understand the different products and services they offer, you decided to ask them.
You started to ask them lazy questions.
How do you think they will perceive you? Will those lazy questions serve you?
If the person you are interacting with is polite and patient, they would give you some answers, however, in the back of their heads, they would start doubting you. Are you the right person for this? After all, you don’t know the basics of their business.
If the person you are interacting with is busy, short on time and quite aggressive, you might be just hit on the face with a statement such as, “It’s on the website. Haven’t you read it?” or something like “I suggest you read our product catalog and then we meet again.”
Ouch. A little embarrassing. Isn’t it?
By starting of with the wrong questions, the lazy questions, you just engraved a thought in the brain of your client — and that thought is:
If you don’t have answers to the most basic questions, then how can you really help me?
When that happens, you have just put yourself in a very difficult situation. You just moved from starting off on a neutral base to starting off on a negative base. Now, your job has become much hard, trying to prove that you actually know what you are doing.
Stay away from lazy questions.
Inspired by the book, Questions that Sell: The Powerful Process for Discovering What Your Customer Really Wants by Paul Cherry