How to ask questions of your customers to get what you need

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I’ve encountered many ambitious start-ups and small businesses that fail, because they depend too much on their big idea, thinking that it will sell as long as they promote it to as many people as possible. 

But that method isn’t going to convert potential leads into sales, and neither is it going to help your brand be remembered. Unless you can really solve a problem for them, your market won’t be giving you the time of day.  

Succeeding in any business requires delivering quality in every situation. That means having solutions tailored to every need of your clients so you can present yourself and your business as the perfect fit for them.

Throughout my years as a business coach, I’m constantly talking about the importance of getting to know your customers. 

Why is it so important? 

Well, without knowing the people you should be targeting, how will you know the size of your market? How will you profile them, understand their interests, and identify their needs? And how will you know if what you're proposing is any different from your competitors? 

The art of winning over your market is to uncover this information to help you stand out. When they see your value, they'll keep choosing your brand over your competitors. 

So, getting the answers means you need to ask the questions first.  

Asking questions shows your prospects how serious you are at becoming the best they need you to be. You can do so without sounding rude or as if you’ve ventured into a business you have no idea how to run. It’s about genuinely reaching out to learn how you can better serve your clients. 

And don't be dismayed if not all the answers you receive are positive. Because often, it's these outsider perspectives that will allow you to see areas where you need to improve.

Questions to ask to get what you need 

Brand positioning and your approach to customers 

Your brand is a representation of who you are. You control how you wish it to be perceived. That means, you have the power to position yourself in ways that will distinguish it better than your competitors. 

Brand positioning clarifies what makes your offer the best choice to tell your market what to expect. 

Ask your customers these two questions:

  • What’s their honest opinion about you?
  • Is what you do and offer easy to understand?

Their answers will help you discover what kind of personality they see in your business. Are you friendly, engaging, helpful, and approachable? Or snobbish, complicated, and threatening? 

As business owners and leaders, our clear understanding of our brand's identity plays a pivotal role in the manner we approach our customers. They will respond better when you can passionately share the features and benefits or what you offer. But when they can sense that you’re unsure, it turns them away quickly. 

From the answers you gather, you’ll know if the way you present your brand is effective.

You can also use the information you gathered to create company values and strengthen your mission to resonate with what they've said and give your business a clearer identity. 

Business goals 

When a small business owner approaches me for business coaching, I always ask about their goals – what they want to achieve in the future, why is it important to them, and what specific steps do they need to take to get there. 

Goals are a good indication of how well (or how badly) a business is built to succeed. 

Well-defined business goals take you from where you are to where you want to be, but it’s pointless when you don’t know your destination.

Customers are the lifeblood of a small business, and without them you won’t achieve your goals. That’s why it’s essential to identify what they look for during different stages of their journey. What information do they need to know about your products or services before making a decision, what are their expectations when they’ve decided to buy, and what results are they looking for once they’ve completed the purchase? Taking the time to gather this information will arm you with the knowledge to pitch to new leads and confidently handle any queries or objections.

You need to shape your goals based on consumer behaviours and situations they experience. 

Many make mistakes attributing the success of their business to reasons like affordability and marketing reach. But the real reason why a brand triumphs is its ability to address and solve customer pain points.

Have you ever wondered why many good looking products with lots of features fail to capture the attention of their market? Well, it's usually because there's absolutely no need for it. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes: what are the problems that they currently face and what are the solutions that they seek to solve? When you know, you can present your business as the answer, and you’ll get their attention. 

Part of developing the purpose of your business is making sure they're aligned to your values (which is why they need to be developed first). You can use the I’M SMART blueprint to help you develop each one further, including coming up with a plan of action to achieve them.

Value Proposition

Businesses today face a common problem: the market is oversaturated and their customers have seen too much of the same thing. Without a unique value proposition, products and services become outdated fast. When you find yourself in that situation, how will your customers recognise your brand? 

You want to show your customers that what you offer is superior compared to your competitors. 

One way you can step up your game is to communicate with your customers to keep them happy. Clients like it when a brand reaches out to them, and to make sure your discussion is worthwhile, consider asking these questions: 

  • Are they satisfied with your products or services? 
  • Is there something more they want from you?
  • Have they recently had a negative experience with their purchase? 

You can expect one or two negative comments to come up from this conversation, so don’t get too defensive. Instead, thank them for sharing what they think you can do to improve what you offer and how you operate as a small business. Then, assure them that you will take their comments seriously and work on making the necessary improvements.

When you value their point of view and engage in this professional yet open discussion with your customers, you slowly break down the customer-business relationship to a degree. They warm up to you faster, and they'll want to be loyal. 

Of course, you need to balance these situations. Don't overcommit or promise something that you can’t deliver. Take their comments into consideration, but identify the best ways to help them that are within your capabilities. As the business owner, you can’t afford to be uncertain over what's best for your clients. 

Asking your customers these questions will open up opportunities for your business to grow. Their answers will tell you what you’re doing well, where you can improve, and other ways you can address the difficulties they encounter. 

When you put in the time to learn and understand your customers, you will come up with new ideas, messaging and tactics that benefit the growth trajectory of your brand.

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