Saturday, April 26, 2008

Discover alternative opportunities with the follow-on question (if you're interested)

Example, buying clothes, electronics, etc. People are afraid to show interest because they don't want to be pressured into a purchase. You, as a customer, should always ask more if you are a really interested buyer (and not just a shopper). The fact you don't ask the follow-on question tells the sales person you're really only browsing and not interested in making a purchase.

Business. Good sales people ask lots of questions when have the opportunity (and sometimes even when the timing isn't ideal - following your customer into the washroom perhaps). But they only ask if they are really interested in doing business with the specific customer.

Relationships. Sometimes, people are afraid to ask further follow-on questions because they think their questions may be misconstrued as being nosy. If you're interested in what the other person is talking about, it's only natural you want to know more. The lack of the follow-on could suggest the other party isn't interested in the topic or you. But it could mean they are just being (overly) polite or shy.

Education. Whether in the 8th grade classroom or attending a business presentation, asking a follow-on or
clarifying question is the best way to solidify a newly learned concept or a way to find out more information (if you care and if you're interested).

In all of these situations, a follow-on question may open up alternative opportunities. The simple follow-on question ("
no, this isn't perfect, you don't have anything else you'd recommend, do you ?") could lead to a new idea or open your eyes to something you may have overlooked in your own shopping search; or perhaps in a sales meeting, a simple "Would you like to hear what else our company can do for you ?" or "is there someone else in your organization who you think would like to hear about us ?", could uncover new sales opportunities.

In relationships and at different times during a conversation, you could be on either side of the discussion, the one asking the questions or the one answering. If you're interested, you'll ask more questions of the person. If you're interested, you'll answer and ask your own questions. If one is more interested than the other, then the discussion will end abruptly or uncomfortably. Or worse, one person may get the impression the other person is interested and continue the (one-sided) discussion. At the end of which, the receiving party is saying
"man, I'm glad he's gone". But who's to blame ?

In verbal conversation, this back and worth is a natural process and one that ultimately, should produce a rich experience for both parties (if they're interested). With traditional letter writing (and maybe with blog writing), this is almost impossible. I remember writing letters when I was young with common questions like "
how's school going ?" or "did you like you holiday in Bognor Regis ?". What did I expect, a letter back in two months with the answers ? Electronic communications are tricky though. Many times, you don't want to ask the follow-on question because you think your barrage of emails is becoming intrusive or annoying, but that's only the case if the other party isn't interested in discussing alternatives with you or providing more information. But if they are interested and are really open to alternatives and want to build the relationship, then they won't mind at all. Instant messaging is the closest electronic option to the verbal conversation and the long back and forth Q&A is accepted (however, normally, only people that have already established good relationships use IM).

I think that when the right questions are asked and it leads us to something fulfilling, we unknowingly say we're lucky. As many would agree, you've made your own luck by asking follow-on questions and opening up alternative opportunities.

Any questions ?


Anonymous said...

Do you want fries with that? :-)

Suze said...

I used to hate asking customers if they wanted fries with that. If they wanted fries..they'd ask for them (or the more recent "if I wanted water...") I don't think anyone ever said yes, or if they did they would ask...are they free?

Great post...really wish I was better at coming up with the follow on question. I often want to know more, but don't know how to ask for more (shy/polite definitely resonates with me)...don't say it...I know...the best question "how do you mean?"