Why and when to ask what

17 July 2018

The question: "how much is one client worth to you?"

Powerful question yes but only when delivered at the right time, in the right context and for the right reason.

Recently I made enquiries into a particular service and I arranged calls with a couple of people who I though seemed to be credible in their field according to some on the feedback I had seen. One of the conversations I had started out well and I could sense that the person really wanted to bring me on board, but I also felt a sense of urgency on their part because it wasn’t very long into the phone call (bear in mind some consultations take an hour plus) the person launched this question at me. I didn’t feel they completely understood what I wanted at this point in fact I know because when the person went on to discuss cost and what was involved all I could think was that this solution was just not right for me. I thought the first questions were great and had the person continued to find out more about me the structure of this call like the rapport between us would not have been lost. The key turn off for me was the untimely use of this question “How much is one client worth to you?” I actually didn’t answer the question because I was annoyed, so it really didn’t work in their favour in fact  it completely cut the conversation short and I lost the rapport with the person.

 Another time I heard this question being used was in an open forum. This was a person trying to put value to what they offer. It really didn’t work. The answers they got didn’t quite work and the impact was diluted. What a waste of a good question.

A big mistake people selling can make is when they hear a powerful question similar to this and then use it themselves without really understanding its power as a question. This question is about reinforcing value not for grabbing attention. If you had to list this question under a category you would probably put it under finance, investment, ROI or even negotiation. You would not put it under the heading of rapport, value and understanding. This question when used at the wrong time in the sales conversation can easily break a rapport, be seen as pushy or divert the focus of the sales conversation purely onto the financial aspect and hence shift the whole situation into a pitch not a consultation. If it’s pitching you want to do then fine, but if you want to engage with your customer, build a rapport with them and sell value then this question should only really be necessary as a reactive one.

Here's an example of how I would use it;

"So are you happy to move forward with everything we have agreed?"

"yes but can you tell me how much this will cost to implement" (notice that up until this point there has been no mention of cost - why? because I'm selling professionally on value not cost. I am not ready to negotiate until the buyer understands what they would be negotiating on!)

"Without the exact quote you would be looking at around £XXX"

"wow that's quite an investment"

"Sure is but that depends on what you get as a return. What would each new client be worth to you?"

"yeah ok I get it"

There is a fine line between being pushy and being smart when you use this question and so far I haven't heard it being used smartly as in my example above.

Here are some great questions you can use instead;

“What’s important to you to get from me should we work together?”

“What aspect of service by a provider would help decide who you work with?”

“What would you get from investing in external help that you can’t already get?”

There are many more such questions that are not focussed on money. Remember questions about cost and investment should be left for the buyer to initiate and for you to respond to with this type of powerful question not the other way round. 

"Its not smart to be one step ahead of your customer. It's wise to be in their shoes" ref 'wise me up - Shea Heer'

 

 

 

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