Quizzing Your Clients

 Consulting with prospective clients obviously involves asking lots of questions.
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 Consulting with prospective clients obviously involves asking lots of questions.

Asking Better Questions Can Increase Your System Sales

Consulting with prospective clients obviously involves asking lots of questions. What is less obvious, however, is how the nature and style of your questions can dramatically impact whether or not you land the deal or how big that deal will be.

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Dave Chace (dave@trainingallies.com) is president of Training Allies in Philadelphia.

The smart approach involves understanding how the right questions not only determine a customer’s needs, but also put them at ease, fosters their enthusiasm, and potentially increases the sale.

Here are three tips for asking more effective questions:

1. Focus on the customer, not the gear. Most people love talking about themselves. Furthermore, our technology is unfamiliar to most customers, and so it is outside their comfort zone. Yet because the gear is what integrators feel most comfortable talking about, lots of them make this the focus of their questions. To make a better impression, avoid lots of gear-centric questions and instead keep the discussion within the customer’s comfort zone by asking questions about them; this helps you better understand their lifestyle, how they occupy their home, and what makes them happy. Frankly, most folks would favor discussing summer barbecues or their favorite movies over whether they’d prefer in-wall or ceiling speakers for the dining room. Focusing your questions on the customer and their lifestyle will uncover vital clues to help you design the appropriate system for them. Equipment recommendations should be the result of your consultation, not the focus of it.

2. Paint Pictures. People think visually, and those visual images drive their emotions. Buying a home system is an emotional decision, and you will want to attach as many positive mental images to that decision-making process as possible. Case in point: a paragraph describing a Caribbean getaway is enticing, but it’s the pictures of the beach that seals the deal.

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Asking clients the right questions not only determines their needs, but also puts them at ease, fosters their enthusiasm, and potentially increases the sale.

Painting pictures means posing a question in the form of a descriptive scenario. For instance, instead of asking “Do want speakers outside?” try “How would you like to have music playing while you’re entertaining on the patio or working in the garden?”

Painting pictures also can include reminding them of past experiences— including negative ones. For instance, asking, “How often have you been frustrated trying to figure out which remote to use, or what button to push?” is a great way to open the door to a programmed control solution. If this approach is unfamiliar to you, an easy way to practice asking these kinds of questions is to simply describe an appealing scenario—making sure you put the customer in the picture—and then add “how does that sound?” at the end.

3. Quote their answers in your proposal. People are much more likely to commit to something they’ve stated out loud, and this benefits you significantly when it comes time to present the proposal. After you’ve asked lots of quality questions and listened carefully to the answers, be sure to quote those answers when making your presentation. Use phrases like “You mentioned that you liked…” or “You said it’d be great if…” when presenting various elements of your system design, as a means of explaining why you’ve included these elements. This not only shows the client that you were paying close attention during the consultation, but also reminds them of a verbal commitment they’ve made.

The right questions do much more than determine fundamental system requirements. They uncover important customer likes and dislikes, enlighten them to numerous possibilities, and create desires for things the customer hadn’t previously considered (like lighting control, for instance). Furthermore, the right questions can greatly enhance the customer’s perception of you—not just your credibility, but also whether or not they want to work with you.