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Jun 19
2006

Responding to Customer Questions

Posted by: Steve Marr

Tagged in: Untagged 

Every day, customers ask millions of questions. Each question is an opportunity for a business to move closer to a sale or strengthen a relationship. Unfortunately, many of these questions are answered poorly, or simply not answered at all. Developing the habit of listening effectively to questions, and then answering those questions completely, will strengthen your customer relationships and move your business forward.

 

Customers may ask about the status of an order, the quality or price of your products, or for other information needed to make the all-important buying decision. First, be certain you have heard—and understood—the question. King Solomon writes, “He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame” (Proverbs 18:13, NIV). Next, repeat the customer’s question if you are at all uncertain about what he or she asked, and be ready to ask clarifying questions. For example, when a clothing salesperson was asked to bring out white shirts, she wisely asked, “Were you interested in pure white shirts, or were you considering cream or off-white shades?”


Becky, who sells investment securities, always asks what the customer’s investment objectives are. When she was new to the business, if a customer said “income,” she would immediately recommend high-yield bonds with the highest income. However, she soon discovered that some customers were also interested in capital growth and safety. After Becky learned to ask follow-up, clarifying questions, she was able to more clearly understand what her customers wanted. When we fire off an answer before we have clarified exactly what the customer is asking, we often miss the mark—and possibly the sale, as well.


Cultivate the habit of answering questions completely. Customers have a way of asking penetrating questions and expecting comprehensive answers. Peter, an experienced real estate agent, had developed the habit of answering only the part of a question that he thought would help get the sale. A prospective buyer asked how asking prices compared to actual selling prices in the immediate area; whether sellers were taking less than the asking price; and how the value of a particular neighborhood stacked up against another that he had visited. Peter believed that the couple was interested in one particular house, so he confirmed that selling prices were averaging 2 percent under asking prices, and that the current property was a good value, even at the asking price. However, he failed to answer the comparative-value question, and the couple later bought a home in a different neighborhood from a different agent. Had Peter answered the question completely, instead of angling for a quick and easy sale, he would have kept his customer and eventually earned his commission on the house they bought.


Answer to your customers’ questions should be simple and direct. Keep your words to a minimum. King Solomon writes, “The fool multiplies words” (Ecclesiastes 10:14, NASB). A clutter of words will distort a direct, factual answer and will often cut off communication rather than improve it. I quickly become frustrated when I ask the price of a specific car at an auto dealership and get a five-minute sales pitch instead of a simple, straightforward answer. By directly answering questions without a lot of extra words, a salesperson can efficiently communicate the information the customer wants. It’s okay to ask follow-up questions, or to clarify what your customer is asking, but keep your answers simple.


If you don’t know the answer to a customer’s question, simply say so, and then commit to finding out the answer and getting back to the customer. The Lord asked, “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2, NASB). When we try to baffle, bluff, or guess our way through questions when we don’t know the answer, we just lose credibility. Our credibility—and our company’s credibility—is compromised when we give incorrect data or information. It causes our customers to question everything we say. Customers will understand that we don’t always have the answer at our fingertips, and they will appreciate our efforts to furnish the correct information.


As you develop the habit of effectively listening to your customers’ questions, and responding completely and clearly, your candor will establish confidence and trust, and will help you close more sales.

 

Steve Marr, Your Christian Business Coach

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