One of the most important tools in the business developer/marketer’s kit is the question, or more accurately, questions. The answers you receive provide critical insights and intelligence in determining the suitability of your offer or marketing proposition. As well, properly managed, they can frame the thought processes of the individuals with whom you are communicating.
On the flip side, going into the marketing and business development process with narrow assumptions and questions for which you have only one correct answer — your predetermined choice– will almost certainly end up badly (unless of course you have set your targets so specifically that you absolutely know the answers, but if you are vain enough to think that you are treading in extremely treacherous egotistical waters).
So what questions should you ask?
Presentation and marketing guru Matt Handal has three that he recommends and I like them because of their impact and power. Here they are:
The Magic Wand
“I’m curious…if you could wave a magic wand and fix something about your [job or project], what would it be?”
The Neglected Followup
“Interesting, can you tell me more about that?”
More history, less mystery
“Tell me about the last time you [process they hope to improve/contract you’re pursuing]”
I’ll let Handal explain how he applies these questions with specific answers in his own blog/eletter (which you can request here), but will focus here on the bigger question that underlies these inquiry points.
And that is this: Do you really care about what the clients think/want, or are you just trying to package your perceived value/offer so that they will buy it?
You’ll probably answer that you really care about your clients but of course, if they don’t buy what you have to offer (or can profitably produce for them, within your skills and resources), you won’t be in business very long. However, if you ask the right questions, you’ll get down to the potential client’s pain points, emotional wishes, and practical requirements, and then you can assess whether your offerings are truly right — and if they are, continue your marketing and business development process with enthusiasm and confidence.
But you need to know how to ask the right questions first, and then listen carefully to the answers.