How do I ask Customer Questions?

Nadine from Jamaica asked:

"Two Questions: 1. What questioning techniques will best help me determine my customer's needs and motives? 2. What techniques and skills help to listen and understand the customers needs?"

A Negotiation Expert Answered:

1. What questioning techniques will best help me determine my customer's needs and motives?
There are several different types of questions that you can use when trying to understand the needs and concerns of a client. Careful not to start with closed ended questions. Closed ended questions can only be answered with a “yes” or “no”. Following are the more productive types of questions to ask. When eliciting information, phrase your question to get a response that includes the information that you want to elicit from your customer.

1. Open-ended questions

These are the best sort of questions to start with, as they usuall require a detailed elaboration and cannot be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response. They consist of using variations of who, what, where, when, why, and how. The respondent has no alternative but to elaborate:
Examples:How did you arrive at that particular price?
What are your goals?
Why is this your biggest challenge right now?

2. Open opportunity questions

This form of question invites the customer to participate and offer their personal views.
Example: What do you think of this option as a solution?

3. Leading Questions

Like is states on the box, you try to guide the customer to a point of view in a persuasive manner. Be very careful and sparing with these types of questions.
Example: “So if you were to save $1 million through using our product, would it have been a worthwhile purchase?

4. Probing Questions

When you need to gain a better insight into a person’s thought process to further illuminate their rationale or position.
Examples: Could you provide us with more detail in how you analyzed the data?”
“What path did you take to arrive at that solution?”

5. Emotional thermometer

There are occasions when you will sense that something might be starting to boil beneath the surface. You may wish to address a pending emotional response that might otherwise de-rail your sale if left unchecked. So check how the other person feels.
Examples: How do you feel about the third option?”
“You don’t look happy, may I ask why?”

2. What techniques and skills help to listen and understand the customers needs?
One of the best methods is active listening. Active listening requires that you show that you have understood what the client has said by re-stating the issues or problem back to them.
Example: As I understand it, the issues / problems / concerns include…” and provide a precise or summary highlighting the salient points. This ensures you are both on the same page.

An often overlooked area of skill in sales professionals' armoury are the near undetectable noises and micro gestures. So simply provide a sign of recognition to the speaker to let them know that we have heard and understood them. This is best done subtly. We accomplish this by telegraphing physical signals to the customer to show that we are physically involved in the listening process. This can be a visual or auditory cue that that positively acknowledges what they’re saying and can encourages the customer to continue speaking. So a nod, blink, an “umm-hmm” or “right” all speak volumes.

This brings us back to our response to your first question. Questions are a powerful way of letting the customer know that we have listened to what they have had to say, have thought about it and care enough to be interested to gain clarification and find out more. Most importantly, it’s best to keep interruptions to the absolute minimum. Better to make a note of questions to ask later. Example:When you said A, what exactly did you mean?”

During the listening process it is imperative to make eye contact with the client as much as possible. We don’t necessarily have to look into their eyes all the time, just be aware that since most people are more visually oriented than auditory and kinaesthetic, most clients won’t “feel” listened to unless you give them your full visual attention.

Those who read this Q&A found the following articles useful:
Use Clever Questions in your Negotiation
Acquire Good Listening Skills

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2 of 5 people found the following comment useful:

really usefull - 2014 Jul 25
Commentator: sowmya (India - Tamil Nadu)

"i am working in bpo ..this seems to be really useful to carry my conversation to my lead further..thank you"

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