One simple question that can tell you a lot about the potential customer

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by Tom Watson on November 26, 2017

When I was out trying to drum up business for myself I did a lot of experimenting when meeting with potential clients.

For instance I was always playing around with different questions to ask the client to see which ones give me the most useful information.

The fact is you don’t always get a lot of time to ask questions. Some potential clients give you plenty while others give you the grand tour in a matter of minutes then show you the door shortly thereafter. So you have to be prepared for what gets thrown your way.

Though there are a lot if things I was curious about when it came to potential customers, today’s topic of discussion dealt with are they a “real potential client or just a price shopper”. I wanted to know because how I approached the meeting hinged on “what they are looking for”.

They called me FOR A REASON. Was it…

  • A: They are unhappy with their current company for a particular reason? (not performing one of their cleaning duties as promised)
  • B: They are generally happy but looking for a better price? (no real issues, just not pleased with what they are paying each month)

Though I don’t NEED TO KNOW the motivation, it sure helps me to know as much as possible. I believe the more you know and understand the potential client, the better chance you have of getting hired (and actually SOLVING the issue).

So to extract the information I needed I asked the following question (at the moment I had their FULL ATTENTION):

“What problems are you having with your current cleaning company?”

Now you have to really pay attention to their facial expressions, body language and what comes out of their mouth (which comes with practice) to gauge the answer properly. If they hemmed and hawed and really didn’t answer the question (or provided a BLANK EXPRESSION) then I generally put them into the “price shopper” category.

So if that was the case I looked at the issue of getting hired through the lens of MONEY. Could I sharpen my pencil enough to come up with a price that won them over? That was the question as I saw it. My followup question would have been “what are you paying now?” I would NOT have just blurted it out right then and there, but I would have found a way to fit it in somewhere!

Now if they DID HAVE reasons they were unhappy then that changed the equation. The issue WAS NOT MONEY, therefore I had more latitude in that area (maybe I would aim for a greater profit margin on this deal). Assuming they named an issue they were unhappy with, my followup question on this response would have been “which three issues bother you most?”

That takes the focus off money and keeps them pointed towards SOLVING THE ISSUE. When you solve issues, you get PAID MORE (in my experience anyway). To summarize, price shoppers are looking for a deal, and people with problems are looking to fix their toothache. Knowing WHO WAS WHO mattered to me because as we all know, people will pay a premium to fix toothaches! 

Keep in mind, there is NOTHING WRONG with price shoppers. A deal can still be struck! Maybe they were paying a premium and you can come in and shave a few bucks off and still make out good. Maybe they weren’t being over-charged but you can still match or slightly beat their price. As long as a job is worth it to you, then a deal is worth doing.

So just work on ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS. In my opinion knowing WHO IS WHO keeps you focused on how to approach the customer. So feel free to experiment with your own set of questions! Remember… owning a business is a LIFELONG learning experience. And… practice makes perfect.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ross December 6, 2017 at 12:12 am

Good insight. I’ll definitely use this

2 Tom Watson December 10, 2017 at 9:47 am


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