Last week I attended a workshop intended to help the professionals in our firm learn more about a new service our company is offering. On the last day of the workshop a considerable amount of time was spent on how to interview the client about this service. I was interested to see that many of the partners, who often pride themselves on knowing their clients better than the client knows him or herself, didn’t quite know how to approach the client about this new service. As I watched two of the partners take turns role-playing a conversation with a client, a couple of tips came to mind:
Don’t be in such a rush to get down to business that you overlook the importance of warming the client up. If you truly aren’t interested about how a client’s children are, don’t ask. Your client is going to see right through your lack of interest and may be less receptive to what you have to say.
Leave plenty of time for the meeting. If you have called your client in for a meeting to introduce a new service, it’s likely they will have questions. Beware of flattering yourself into believing that if you offer it, they will come. Let them ask all the questions that they need to feel comfortable.
Prepare your questions before the interview. For example, if you are offering financial planning services, there is a lot of information you’re going to need to get from your client to determine how best you can help them. If you are afraid you’re going to forget a question in the course of your interview, make a list.
Make sure you get all the information. If your interview requires you to ask a question such as "Do you plan on traveling when you retire," and the client says "yes," don’t stop there. Ask what kind of travel and where. A European tour is going to be significantly more expensive than a road trip across the United States. Knowing that the client’s children are going to college is important. However, knowing whether they’re planning on going to a state or a private school is going to make a big impact on how you plan.
Practice. Practice. Practice. Don’t make the mistake of being overconfident about your relationship with your client. If you aren’t comfortable with sales, be prepared because what you are attempting to do is sales.
If you are concerned about your approach, take the time to work with a professional on your speaking abilities before you meet with the client. Not only will it help refine your interviewing technique, it will help boost your confidence level. While you may just be nervous, if you appear to lack confidence it may be perceived by your client that you aren’t confident about your ability to provide this new service, rather than just being nervous about actively selling the service.