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4 types of questions to help you cultivate relationships

Becca Fieler  Marketing Manager for Content Strategy and Development

· 5 minute read

Becca Fieler  Marketing Manager for Content Strategy and Development

· 5 minute read

Understanding your clients’ needs is crucial to tailoring your services and products so they get the most effective solutions, but it can be challenging to know what questions to ask. Here are four types of questions that will help you cultivate relationships with your prospects.

1) Reflective, Clarifying Questions

Clarifying questions go beyond just asking your prospect who they are and what they do. When you ask more detailed and specific questions, it shows that you are sincerely interested in their situation and unique needs. Reflective questions make your prospects think before they answer, clarify the topic, and elicit the most honest and forthright responses. Here are some examples:

  • What keeps you up at night?
  • What are you doing now that is working?
  • What is not working that you want to change?
  • What are your priorities?
  • What are your overall goals?
  • What do you hope to accomplish?
  • What obstacles do you feel are in your way?
  • Which solutions have been successful in the past?
  • What prompted you to seek a solution at this particular time?

2) Open-Ended Questions

Asking “Yes” or “No” questions won’t help your prospect open up (or warm up) to you. Your goal should be to have a dialogue, not conduct an interrogation. Open-ended questions are one of the most valuable methods used to establish two-way communication and puts your clients or potential clients at ease.

The core of open-ended questions is ‘The Five W’s’; Who, What, Where, Why, and When (and as a bonus, How). Here are some examples:

  • Why do you want to make a change?
  • How do you expect this to change your business/life?
  • What would eclipse this goal, minimizing its priority?
  • How did you identify potential solutions?
  • How do you measure the success of this initiative?
  • Who could stand in your way to meeting your goals?

You can tailor common open-ended question to your particular service area and target markets, provided you don’t use the list as a crutch. The use of open-ended questions should lead to a free flowing conversation that allows you to seamlessly introduce new questions and new topics to your prospect.

3) Hypothetical Questions

While some sales experts would tell you to avoid hypothetical questions, I disagree. Hypothetical questions are often the best way to qualify prospects in such a way that they may not even realize that they are being qualified. They give you the ability to feel your prospects out by taking them out of their reality and placing them in a fantasy world where anything is possible (and affordable). They also enable you to gauge the emotional stage your prospects are in and how likely they are to move forward with a purchase in the near future. Here are some examples:

  • Let’s say all of your obstacles were removed, what would you do?
  • In a perfect world, how would you go about meeting your goals?
  • If you had the resources you need, would that change your plans?
  • What would you do if you have two suddenly-free hours in the day?

Word to the wise: You should always avoid asking questions like, “How much would product that does X, Y, and Z be worth to you?” Discussing pricing should be saved for a second or even third meeting and should not occur during the initial discovery, rapport-building meeting.

4) Echoing Questions

In the words of the great Ernest Hemingway, “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” Current clients and potential clients alike may often feel like their feedback and needs are never heard by firms. Asking echoing questions gives you the opportunity to show that you are listening to them by rephrasing their answers to ask more specific questions, letting them know that you are listening – and hearing – their concerns. It also confirms that you have understood what they are trying to tell you. Echoing their words or phrases in the form of a question demonstrates your commitment to them while also forging trust and respect. Here are some examples:

  • So, are you concerned about the strategy you have designed?
  • Are you worried that your plan will not be approved?
  • Is lack of buy-in what has prevented you from pursuing a solution in the past?
  • Do you fear not having the resources to be successful in your endeavors?

Echoing questions, especially those with an emotional context, help validate your prospects’ concerns. You will be one step closer to a rock-solid rapport.

Make the Biggest Impact With These Final Tips

Utilizing these types of rapport-building questions with current and potential clients will help you quickly build trust and begin successfully cultivating the relationship. By listening and truly hearing them, you enable your firm to adjust its strategy so you are providing the best custom solutions to help your clients and potential clients to succeed. Here are some general rules to follow:

  • Listen to what your prospects tell you
  • Let the prospect guide the discussion
  • Do not prompt or lead them
  • Avoid interrupting them while they answer
  • Ask one question at a time and listen attentively
  • Develop a question cheat sheet to help

Following these questioning techniques and tips can help your firm organically cultivate relationships with prospects and eventually build a rock solid rapport with new and old clients.


How to Cultivate Relationships With Prospects via Email

Technology enables us to reach out and connect with more people than ever through mediums like email. Although developing rapport electronically can be more challenging than interacting directly with prospects, many of the same rules apply. This complimentary whitepaper from Thomson Reuters Checkpoint Marketing for Firms outlines best practices to keep in mind when cultivating relationships with prospects via email and explains how, when done well, email marketing can be an asset to growing your business and connecting with new clients.

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