Asking fuels effective communication.
Communication is the key to developing relationships.
Relationships drive business success.
The most important question you can ask in a relationship business is: How are we doing?
“How are we doing?” is the super-charged question that opens doors, solidifies relationships, and unlocks the referral portal. Imagine how your clients might feel when hearing that you sincerely want to exceed their expectations – and that you are taking action to do so?
Here’s how to use this question to improve your business relationships:
Ask your clients. “How are we doing? On a scale of 1 to 10, how are we doing relative to (choose one or insert your own) product quality, delivery times, customer service, the quality of our relationship? Are we meeting and exceeding your expectations?”
Don’t accept “yes”, or “fine” or “okay”. Don’t be annoying about it, but persist and ask for a number. Once they’ve given you one, ask what needs to be done in order to move the relationship from that number to a 10.
Now listen to them closely (for tips, check out my post on listening.) Don’t debate or defend, just listen. Once they’ve given you some suggestions, ask, “What else?” They are telling you what you need to do in order to meet their needs and improve the relationship. You may decide that you don’t want to make the effort required to move things to a 10, but at the very least, you’ll know what they think it will take to get there.
The next step is to tell them exactly what you’re going to do – and when. You want to be able to get back to them within a reasonable period of time and let them know that a) you care enough about their needs to have asked in the first place and b) you’re quickly addressing the obstacles to their satisfaction.
Once you‘ve begun to make headway towards reaching that “10”, you open the door for questions like, “Now that we’ve resolved that issue, who do you know that would appreciate the same level of service?” Clients are going to be impressed with service that is closer to a 10 than a 4, right? They’ll also be impressed with your dedication to sustaining the highest level of service – and isn’t that what it’s all about?
Can you think of many clients who would give you referrals with service below a 7?
Let’s be honest: your ego may take a bruising in this process. Your relationships with certain clients may not be anywhere near what you think they are – and their concerns may not be anything like what you imagined. I suspect you’ll have a healthy fear of hearing some of the issues your clients bring up. No one wants to know that a key business relationship is only at a 4 (or worse). But now you’ll have the opportunity to improve it.
The only question that remains is: What do you need to do to get comfortable asking the question? Getting into the habit of asking, “How are we doing?” is a task in and of itself.
I challenge you to ask 5 clients this question, every single day. If your clients are not calling you, call them with the question. Once you make it part of your routine, the asking gets easier—and your business relationships get better. If you run into obstacles, contact me.
P.S.: Isn’t this a great question to ask your significant other, children, or business partners?