Most business owners never ask for advice. They just plod along and use the old trial and error method. They do something that doesn’t work, then try something else a go and if they’re lucky, eventually they’ll get results.
The only problem with this is it takes years to get anywhere and by that stage, many business owners have gone broke. This can easily be avoided, simply by asking people for advice.
Of all the people to take advice from, your customers should be at the top of your list. Why? Because these are the people who know first-hand the strengths and weaknesses of your product or service, so don’t you think it’s kind of important to listen to them?
Now you may be wondering, ‘how do I get advice from my customers?’
Well, you ask questions of course. And I have discovered, the better the questions, the more potent the answers.
Here are my 10 favourite questions to ask of every customer:
1. How did you find out about us?
When I speak to business owners one of the questions I ask is, “What is your most profitable marketing method?” Their answer is, “I don’t know. I just do a bit of everything and thankfully people come through my door.” This is what I call the ‘let’s throw some mud at the wall and hope something sticks’ mentality.
This may work for a period of time, however as you become more successful, you are going to attract more competition. When this happens you can’t afford to be wasteful. Your survival is going to depend on your ability to know what marketing channels are effective, meaning producing a return on investment (ROI) and knowing what parts of your marketing budget need to be flushed down the toilet.
So from now on, ask every customer you talk to, “So how did you find out about us?” “So how did you find out about us?” “So how did you find out about us?” Yes, to the point where it becomes annoying.
And if you have staff, train them on this. Stick a graph on everyone’s desk listing all core activities (leaving five rows spare to write in more) and tell them to mark down the results of every response, then tally up the results at the end of each week.
What do you do with this knowledge? Simple. Enhance and improve on what’s working and stop what’s not.
2. What made you decide to buy?
This is one of the more simple questions that so many people don’t ask. How do I know? Well, I often ask business owners, “Why do your customers buy from you?” And all that stares back at me are blank faces. Then when I ask again, they make up something like, “Because we are cheaper”. Generally, that’s not it.
So ask everyone from now on. In fact, to fast-track things, you can even ask retrospectively. Spend a couple of hours, call fifty past customers – you’ll be amazed by what you learn.
In fact, when one of my clients did this, the number one reason they got was, “Because you always greet me with a smile and remember my name.” Imagine what it is really costing you when you hire an unfriendly person!
3. What were your concerns during the buying process?
This is another vital question to ask every customer. Because for every answer you get, 10 other people thought it and didn’t buy. Ouch! So start asking this question in the first interaction with a new client. By doing this you uncover all the road-blocks that are preventing more sales.
People might say, “I wasn’t convinced you had the experience to deliver”. Great, you can now close that gap by adding a credentials slide in your presentation or some framed client testimonials on your walls.
Others might say, “We didn’t want to buy, then realised we’d made a mistake.” All right, so offer a seven-day money-back guarantee. Bottom line, you need to know the issues and then you need to remove them as fast as you can.
4. Once you used our product/service what problems went away?
Most people buy products or services to solve problems. But again, when I talk to business owners, most don’t know the problems that their product or service solves. By not knowing this information it makes it extremely difficult to be effective in your marketing.
So ask your customers, “Once you used our product/service what problems of yours were solved?” If they are unable to respond straight away, stay with this line of questioning. Keep asking the same question, but do so in different ways. Your job here is to dig deep and uncover the subconscious reasons why people make decisions.
Then when you have this information, talk to your marketing team and they can turn these insights into great headlines, powerful images or even special promotions. Do this right and prospective customers will feel an instant connection.
They’ll say, “Wow this person truly gets me”. And as I’ve discovered, the person that understands a customer’s needs better than the next guy is the person that ultimately gets the business.
5. When is your birthday?
This is a really easy one. All you do is you add one extra field to your customer sign up form – Date of Birth (DOB). Just add it in there after the email address and before the phone numbers.
Then ensure that date is entered into your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. We program our CRM to email our receptionist five days before someone’s birthday. When that email comes in, they hand-write a card and pop it in with a little pressie to be mailed.
So on our customers birthday’s a package arrives for them with their name on it. When this happens customers are amazed. They say things to us like, “Oh my God, how did you know?” Or, “My husband/kids don’t even remember my birthday.” Imagine the positive word of mouth this creates.
6. What did you think of our service?
This question is a tough one, but it has to be asked. So after a customer has had the chance to experience your service ask them, “What did you think of our service?” If they give you a flippant answer like, “Yeah, it was good,” ask again. “No, tell me honestly… what did you think of your experience?”
Now if you are squirming as you read this, you might have a problem, as you should be able to ask this question with confidence and without the fear that you are going to be opening a can of worms.
So again, work hard to close the gaps. Take the time to review your entire sales and service experience. Then look for ways that you can improve.
7. What is one thing we could do better?
Further to our last question, this question is all about going deeper. Let’s say you’ve done a great job, you ask the question above and the person genuinely says, “I’ve loved your service, it’s great”. Rather than leaving it there ask, “Well if there was one thing we could do better, what would it be?”
The way this question is phrased forces people to come up with something. That one thing might have gone undetected and it may be the key to unlocking something very powerful about your business.
So keep asking the question and if you fix something here and something there, you’ll soon build an unstoppable business.
8. What else would you like us to sell?
This question is a killer question and can seriously open the door to thousands or even millions of dollars in extra profits.
Now one word of warning, don’t ask this question (or the ones following) during sign up or even the delivery phase of your service. Only ask this question when you have gained a sufficient rapport with your customer and you are talking like friends.
When you think you are ready, ask them, “What else would you like us to sell?” Notice I didn’t say, “What else would you like to buy?”
If you ask the buy question, people will normally say, “I’m fine right now.” Or they ask you, “Well what else can I buy?” This is a good conversation to have. However, the sell question will get you and your customer thinking about new products and services – ones that aren’t even on your radar yet.
9. Who else do you know that could benefit from working with us?
Again, ask this question only after you’ve provided an excellent customer experience. If you’ve done your job people will naturally want their friends to benefit in the same way they did. So ask the question and then pause and wait for a response.
If they are not forthcoming in sharing names, it’s because of two reasons. Number one: there might be some unresolved issues that need to be addressed. Or number two: they are a little concerned that you will hard-sell their peers. Both these issues can be resolved simply by talking them through with your customer.
However, if you’ve done your job well, you’ll find the vast majority of people are only too happy to refer you to their family and friends. The reason why this is so powerful is: like attracts like. If you have a great customer, generally all of their friends will also be great customers.
So have fun with it. If you’ve built a good enough rapport you can even say, “Tell me, John, how can I find more people like you?” At this point stop talking and listen. If names and numbers are shared, write them down and for God’s sake follow-up!
10. Do you know any companies we should align with?
This question digs a little deeper into your customer’s psyche. Ultimately, if they allow it, you want to find out as much information about them as you can. What magazines do they read, what shows do they watch, what personalities they listen too and where they shop.
By knowing this information you can develop a profile of your ideal customer and this makes it easier to uncover new marketing or cross-promotional opportunities.
You want to ask, “Do you know any companies we should align with?” By asking this question people start thinking and after a few moments they say, “Yes you need to speak to my ‘ABC’ company and you should also talk to ‘XYZ’.”
This is great for business, as you can call on these companies and say, “One of our mutual customers John Smith suggested we talk. He sees an opportunity for us to work together so we can both benefit. Are you open to meeting for a coffee so we can discuss some ideas?” And just like that, you are in.
Your customers hold the key to unlocking untold profits for your business. So please, be smart and constantly seek advice in a meaningful and purposeful away.
Before closing, I want you to do something for me. Because in business, you don’t get paid for what you read, you get paid for what you do and for what you implement in your business.
So grab a pen and spend the next ten minutes planning out how and when you are going to integrate these questions into your business. If you need to make graphs to put on desks – do it. Or if you already have scripts or process maps, find a way to work these in.
Finally, if you have a team, this is only going to work if you get them involved. So run training on these questions and then every month have a meeting where staff can share what they’ve learnt.
It’s a process but if you do it right, millions of dollars await you.