When I think of what it takes to have a healthy and thriving relationship. I think of many words: communication, collaborating, partnership, vulnerability. Client relationships are no different.
Good relationships take nurturing and vulnerability. That means being open about their needs, your needs, and working together to build a lasting partnership. One way to develop your customer relationships is to ask clarifying questions. With each client interaction, I make an effort to engage my client and find out where I can help.
Don’t be afraid to ask the seemingly dumb or hard questions. Your clients work with many vendors and they should not be surprised by your questions. In fact, they will be happy that you are engaging them and want to know more about their needs.
Here are a few general questions I use to gain a better understanding of my clients:
Why did you originally purchase our product/services?
- This is a question you should basically know the answer to. If you are unclear or speaking with a new contact, this is a great question to pull you back to why they really need your product. If your product or service is not solving the original problem, figure out how to get back there and help at the basic level.
Can you explain your process?
Make sure to tailor this question to your client, whether its a sales team, HR team, or marketing team. Ask more granular follow up questions that get to the heart of their internal processes.
Another back to the basics question. A lot of times when I become the point of contact (POC) for a client, they have already spoken with several members of my team. The client feels like they explained everything too many times. Unfortunately, internal notes are not always clear or reliable and hearing the customer’s processes/needs first-hand allows me to serve them better.
What are your pain points?
- What makes your customer’s life harder and how can you or your product solve this issue for them? If you can help your client solve a big issue, you are in a good position to building a lasting relationship with the client.
What are their corporate or departmental initiatives for the next year? The next 5 years?
- Find out what their main focus is for the rest of the year and see how your product/services can help them meet their immediate goals.
Your renewal is coming up, who should I send the invoice to? How do you see the renewal process going this year?
- This question can be a little tricky and I word it differently depending on the customer. For some clients, it’s ok to blatantly ask them if they plan to renew their contract. Because you have a relationship or friendship with your clients, sometimes they don’t want to hurt your feelings or make you feel bad. So they might stall on answering the question (which is a big sign). They might tell you in the nicest way possible, there is potential for churn/cancelation or there are some concerns around the renewal.
- This is a question you must ask, as early as possible. If your customer gives a negative response, then you have time to work on their needs and turn it around by renewal.
With the end of the year around the corner, many businesses are wrapping up their fiscal year and getting started on new initiatives for the new year. This year, make it your goal to build a better relationship with your clients. Figure out where your clients need help and support their efforts with your product. Bottom line – it’s time to get to know our clients on a deeper level.
What questions do you ask to engage your clients and gain a better understanding of their business?