‘How can I help’ is the wrong question to ask.
In a recent visit to a client, I asked the same question sales people always ask their clients: “How else can I help you?” Traditionally, a sales person will ask this question when they think they have covered all the bases, brought significant value and are looking for a close-out question to wrap up the visit.
After I asked the question, I received the typical response from my client, “I think that’s it.”
When I returned to my office to write up my notes from the visit a thought hit me like a bolt of lightning. THAT WAS THE WRONG QUESTION! And, not only did I ask the wrong question that day, I realized in that moment it has always been the wrong question to ask.
Here’s why. It is not our client’s job to tell us what else we can do for them. It’s our job to figure that out for them. It would be great if our clients told us exactly what they needed to be the world class provider of X and we could pull that out of our magical bag of tricks and ride off into the sunset.
Nine out of 10 clients have no idea how to reply to the question, “What else can I do to help?” Here is the best way to ask this question… NEVER ASK IT. You should already have that answer through every other question you ask.
One of my favorite questions I like to ask is: What two things would you like to accomplish over the next six months? Not only is this question specific (two things), it also has a time constraint (six months).
If your clients are able to answer this question, it will give you a good indication of where their thought process is headed and what tool in your bag of tricks will help them accomplish one or both of the things they would like to accomplish.
If you don’t have a tool that can address one of the two things they would like to accomplish, keep digging. They have needs, lots of them, and you need to find one need you can help with. Talk about specifics and find out how, exactly, they plan on completing the task.
Sometimes the only thing you will bring to the table for your client is clarity. One of my clients was adamant on knocking out three things on his to-do list. I had no clue how I was going to bring value to any of those three tasks. So instead of offering the tools, I talked to my client very specifically on how he was going to knock them out.
The item of value I brought was planning. I helped him draw out the time line, deliverables and who was going to do what. It worked. His reply back to me was, “I had no idea how helpful an outsider’s eyes and ears could be.” He was too caught up in the trees to see the forest.
Let your competition ask what else can THEY do. Make it your mission to understand your clients’ needs and provide the solution to the questions and problems they don’t ask about.