Do you have the guts to ask for what you want?
One of my Mastermind partners, Pat Schuler of Kick Butt Sales Training, sometimes asks her clients, “Do you really want to rely on hope as a business development strategy?”
She’s got a point. Too many entrepreneurs simply cross their fingers and hope for good results, or wish that prospects and clients would behave a certain way.
Now, I fully believe that focusing on and clearly visualizing the outcomes you want to experience is a powerful, if non-traditional, business-development tool. On the other hand, all the visualizing in the world is unlikely to do you much good unless you also get yourself off the couch and take some action to create those outcomes in the here and now.
One of the most underused strategies for creating a thriving business is one that’s actually pretty simple to implement – if you’re gutsy enough to do it.
Ask for what you want.
Why does this seemingly simple approach require a fair dose of courage? Because if you ask questions…
- You may realize you don’t even really know what questions to ask.
- You run the risk of getting answers you don’t like.
- You’ll be faced with figuring out to do with the answers you get.
- You might discover your prospects – maybe even your clients – don’t think as highly of you as you yourself do.
- You may get frustrated if you can’t get people to respond to your questions.
Wow. Sounds like nothing but good times, doesn’t it?
So you might be wondering what would make asking questions worth the risk of dealing with this type of aggravation. Fortunately, the potential gain is so substantial that focusing on it will make it easier for you to ignore the potential discomfort.
Asking the right questions can make the difference between surviving and thriving.
There’s almost no limit to the number of areas about which you can gather useful information by asking smart, gutsy questions. For example, you can get hard data on:
- your perceived value to clients
- the most painful problems facing prospects
- your target market’s preferred method of communication
- what prospects want that you’re not currently offering
- what you’re currently offering that prospects don’t especially care about
You get the idea.
It’s been said that, when diagnosing a physical illness, asking the right questions is at least half the battle in getting a proper diagnosis. The same is true when it comes to diagnosing where your business is languishing. And as important as it is to be clear in your own mind what you have to offer, there’s something else to be clear on that’s even more vital for your business’ survival and thrival (Is that a word? I guess it is now.)
What do your ideal clients think, need, and perceive?
If you’re willing to risk possible surprise and chagrin, you just may find out how to change what you offer and how you offer it, so that your products and services become totally irresistible to the clients you most want to work with. This is directly related to another reason why knowing how and being willing to ask powerful questions is a great business-development strategy.
Asking questions shows you where to make needed course corrections.
Just as relying on hope and wishful thinking doesn’t make much sense as a business strategy, neither does guessing what’s important enough to your ideal clients for them to be willing to invest their hard-earned money to get it.
So don’t guess. Ask.
Again, you may be somewhat dismayed if it turns out what you’re offering is less valuable than you think it is. On the other hand, this type of feedback is priceless. It enables you to shift resources (time, energy, money) away from low-payoff activities, products, and services, and into those products and services that your clients are hungry for.
And if, instead, you get confirmation that what you’re providing is perceived as immensely valuable, you’ve also gotten permission to consider raising your rates for new clients.
Courage + focus + effective business development = success.
Asking questions can make it easy to get people to do your work for you.
In today’s social-media-soaked world, recommendations and reviews from satisfied clients are becoming an ever-more powerful marketing tool for entrepreneurs. So when you’ve dazzled a client, ask them for a glowing testimonial. You’ll be adding a mighty resource to your marketing tool chest.
I promised in last week’s post to share a method of asking for referrals that I’ve found to be highly effective and pretty painless for everyone. Here it is.
- When working with any client, I take a lot of notes. And when a fabulous compliment spontaneously falls out of the client’s mouth, I make a note of that, too. I write it down verbatim and highlight it in yellow.
- When the time feels appropriate (e.g., at the end of our contracted sessions), I’ll say something along these lines: “Back on [date], I made a note about this great comment you shared with me. [I then read from my notes what she said.] I’d be thrilled if you’d be willing to share that as a testimonial to my work. Would that work for you?” (I have yet to get a “no” from anyone.)
- Once she’s agreed, I offer to make it very easy on her: “If you’d like, I can just type up my notes from that earlier conversation and send them to you. If you’re comfortable with the wording, you can just do a cut-and-paste to post on LinkedIn and give me the go-ahead to upload it to my website.”
- Once the testimonial is posted and permission has been given, I send a thank-you note or card. (Sometimes this involves chocolate.)
Asking questions will spur your creativity.
Let’s face it: Sometimes our thoughts can be pretty muddled. But being faced with the need to give your business a shot in the arm is a great motivator for developing a clear focus. And asking smart questions is a great way to clarify your thinking.
What’s especially interesting about this, in my opinion, is that the questions you have to ask yourself are at least as crucial as the questions you’ll ask other people.
Your creativity comes into play when you get to determine (a) what you need to find out, (b) who you need to find out from, and (c) how to find it out. Here are some questions to get you jump-started; which of them are appropriate for your situation?
- What’s not currently working in your business the way you want it to? Where do your present activities fall short in generating the outcomes you want?
- What are your most popular products and services?
- How profitable are these popular offerings?
- What do past and current clients feel is the greatest value they’ve received from you? Why do they feel this way?
- What would your ideal clients like that they can’t currently get from you?
- Who do you want input from? Past clients, present clients, prospects in your pipeline, prospects who said “no” to you in the past, LinkedIn connections, people whose Facebook pages you’ve Liked and followed, fellow members in professional associations…?
- Do you want to gather feedback through a survey? A focus group? One-on-one interviews?
- What exactly do you want to know from the people you question?
- How exactly will you use the information you gather?
And since I’m in such a question-asking mode, here are a few more: Have you given up wishing for what you want and have chosen instead to ask for it? How’s that working for you? What have you accomplished that you wouldn’t have accomplished had you merely sat back and hoped for the best?
Or do you have so many thoughts ping-ponging around in your brain that you can’t imagine coming up with clear, confident, powerful questions of any sort? If that’s the case, perhaps I can help.
I specialize in showing overwhelmed entrepreneurs how to toss aside what’s getting in their way so they can concentrate on business-building activities that make sense for them. While I’m confident that I’m very good at what I do, I can’t be confident in saying whether you and I would make a great team or a horrible one.
Not, that is, unless we have a chance to get acquainted.
That’s easy to do, and it’s risk-free for both of us. It simply involves setting up a 30- to 40-minute call during which we can both ask and answer some questions. At the end of that brief time, we’ll know whether to go our separate ways or to start rocking.
If that sounds like a smart investment of time, just call me at 319-270-1214 or email me with “I have some questions…” in the subject line. We’ll set up that no-charge, no-risk phone call and see what’s what.
(By the way, thanks to Scott McLeod for the question-mark cookies and Beatnik Photos for the neon question marks. I found both in the Creative Commons section of Flickr.)This entry was posted in business development and tagged choice, focus. Bookmark the permalink.
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