10 Questions You Should Ask Your Clients Every Year

Guest Post by Andrew Sobel, Author, It Starts with Clients, Power Questions, and Clients for Life

Note from Bob:  Please don’t miss your Invitation, at the bottom of this post, to a Special Event on Thursday, March 4th.

Keep Your Client Relationships Healthy

A client of mine recently told me about how he had dodged death twice. The story of the first time is especially hair-raising, but I must save it for another time.

The second time this happened, it involved a seemingly innocuous growth on his arm. It looked like a mole, and he ignored it. He was so incredibly busy running his successful, global company that he hadn’t seen his doctor in several years. He felt fine, and was in peak health by almost any external measure.

His doctor looked at the large mole on his arm and told him to see a dermatologist immediately–the same day. It turned out to be a melanoma that was on the verge of invading his body–of metastasizing. It was, in short, about to kill him (metastasized melanomas are highly lethal, according to doctors).

Here’s the point: Your client relationship may seem healthy. Even radiant. But there may be something small bothering your client. It may be a benign issue–for now. But over time that concern may grow and even merge with other concerns. Your client’s dissatisfaction can grow larger than the sum of the individual concerns. In other words, without regular communication and a thorough, annual client relationship review process, you risk losing a client because you were unaware of their true feelings or perhaps dismissed them in your mind.

You think it’s a small, innocuous spot but it may grow into something more deadly. By the time you react to it, the relationship may be too ill to recover.

Here are 10 questions you should ask each of your clients, every year

1. Could you share with me your overall assessment of our relationship?

This is a general question that can help kick off the conversation in a non-threatening way.

2. What have we done recently that you have found particularly valuable or useful?

We often think we know what has “added value” to our clients. But often, they have experienced value from things we’ve done that we thought were minor or insignificant. You need to find out, so ask!

3. If you could change or improve one thing about our relationship, what would it be?

If a client is not very forthcoming, this might spur an answer.

4. Are there any individuals in your organization with whom we should invest more time and build a better relationship with?

This question is especially important if you work with larger businesses where you need to be developing multiple relationships.

5. Can you give me any suggestions for improving the amount, timing, or format of our communications to you and your organization?

Ideally, you should co-create–that is, collaboratively define–the type of relationship management that suits the client.

Now you may want to shift towards several “agenda setting” questions to better understand your clients upcoming issues and challenges. Note: These are questions for existing clients, not a prospect. Agenda zetting questions for a prospect will be a little different. These assume a personal familiarity.

6. What issues are coming up for you that we ought to be aware of or thinking about for you?

7. What are your plans for…? How are planning to deal with…? (tailor these to your client’s business and markets)

Remember, you don’t just want to ask open-ended questions about your client’s “issues”–you want to consistently demonstrate that you understand your client’s business environment and the key trends that are affecting them.

8. What are your two or three most important goals for next year? (Or, even better: How will you be evaluated by your leadership next year? What metrics will be used?)

9. As you think about the future of your business, and your various strategies and initiatives, what are you most excited about? Most concerned about?

I like this because it’s a “right-brained” power question. It will help you understand what your client is truly excited and passionate about in the business.

10. Is there anything we could improve upon or change that would make doing business with us easier?

“Ease of doing business” is an important and underrated concept, and you might close your conversation with this one. I’ve even said, to a busy top executives, “Is there anything else I can do to make life easier for you?”

There are a few other questions you might also ask, depending on the circumstances. For example, if this is a firm relationship and you have a designated relationship manager and team, you need to find out how the client feels about them. 

  • Could you give me your assessment of our team? What have they done particularly well? Are there any areas for improvement or weakness I should be aware of?
  •  Could you give me your assessment of our relationship manager/account executive? What are their strengths and weaknesses?

And also:

  • If you need something from our organization, do you always know who to go to?

What if the problem with the relationship is the relationship partner or account manager? This doesn’t happen every day, but I have witnessed this type of issue a number of times. An incompatible or poorly-performing team member is one thing; the wrong relationship manager is quite another.

Do clients know how to navigate your organization? Do they know exactly whom to turn to? The last question will help ferret that out, and what you learn may be very critical information.

Finally: once a year–probably in a separate conversation–you need to ask for a referral.  “My business grows through word of mouth—can you think of anyone you know who would benefit from what I do?” If possible, try and ask for a SPECIFIC referral–e.g, “I’d really like to build a relationship with Bill Smith, who sits on the XYZ board with you…would you be willing to connect us?”

Note from Bob:  When I launched LeadingWithQuestions.com, over 8 years ago, Andrew Sobel and Jerry Panas were the very first authors who gave me permission to “Excerpt” from their just released book “Power Questions.”  They not only extended their kind permission – they encouraged me!  They became two of my biggest fans!  They encouraged everyone in the shadow of their influence to subscribe!  I will be forever grateful for their friendship!

Andrew’s just-released book, his ninth, is called It Starts with Clients: Your 100-Day Plan to Build Lifelong Relationships and Revenue. Andrew’s books have been translated into 21 languages, and include the international bestsellers Clients for Life and Power Questions, co-authored with Jerry Panas. You can buy It Starts with Clients, and also download Andrew’s free 46-page Client Relationship Growth Guide by clicking “HERE”   

Invitation: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Might your schedule be open at 11:00 am London, United Kingdom time this coming Thursday 4 March?  That is when I am “Zooming” over to the UK for an hour! I will be a special guest on Bob Hayward’s “Be More Effective” Webinar Series.  “Take Charge – Ask the Right Questions – Make Better Decisions” will be the topic!  Click on this Link: http://bit.ly/3aX88gy  for more information and to register.  (There is no cost to register, but you must register to attend) 

FYI:  If you live in a time zone where 11 am London, United Kingdom is not convenient for you – I’ve got good news for you!  The Webinar will be recorded and everyone registering will be sent a Link to the recording! You also have my permission to share this invitation with all those in the shadow of your influence.

Andrew Sobel

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Sobel is the leading authority on the strategies and skills required to create consistent revenue growth through lifelong client loyalty and trusted business partnerships. He is the most widely published author in the world on this topic, having written nine acclaimed books on building clients for life. You can connect with Andrew @ AndrewSobel.com

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