How do I gather information about a client without seeming too pushy?

It’s all about asking the right questions at the appropriate times in the sales process. Those critical times are when you first contact the prospective customer, when the customer places an order, and when the first is fulfilled. These are times you need to be on the same frequency as the buyer.

During the first conversation you have with the prospect, it’s imperative that you ask them, “How did you first hear of us?”

You cannot ask it randomly or casually. Make it as much a habit to record the answer to this question as it is to record a customer’s name and phone number. Add all the information you obtain to your database, then periodically analyze it.

If they say, “I was referred to you by a friend,” get the friend’s name. At least send that person a thank-you note. If they say, “I saw your ad,” find out which one, as well as when they saw it. You need details. Don’t be shy about getting them. How else can you draw conclusions about which marketing vehicle has the highest return on investment.?

The second moment of truth in the customer-supplier relationship is when an order is placed. You need to discover what the customer’s motivation was when they ordered at that time. I recommend conducting a single-question survey with all your clients during the first four- to six-week period semiannually. Consider something like this:

What was the primary reason you decided to buy from us today (select all that apply)

  • Our superior quality
  • Our promise of excellent after-purchase service, support, warranty, etc.
  • Our salesmanship (how you were treated before placing the order)
  • Our guaranteed on-time delivery
  • Our unique, creative and/or customized designs
  • Our convenient location and hours
  • Our low price
  • A promotion we are offering

Don’t forget to leave a space for any additional comments. Ask this question to a few hundred customers. You will see a pattern emerge. Don’t be surprised if it is not what you thought your company was best known for. You may want to place this question on the bottom of your invoices or a postage-paid postcard enclosed with the order. Carefully heed the information you gather. It should guide you in making decisions about improving your business. Even if the survey validates your assumptions, consider investing more resources to further enhance that feature of your company that sets you apart from the competition.

The final moment of truth is when that first order is delivered. Make a point to get feedback from first-time buyers and invite them to add their name and contact info to your database. Ask them which contact channel they prefer: monthly newsletter, text message, phone calls, email, social media, snail mail, catalogs, etc. One final question to ask is, “How often do you want us to contact you?”

Take the time to understand your customer’s buying motivations, and there’s potential for small orders to lead to large orders placed more frequently, as well as a potential increase in the customer’s interest in buying new items.

—Your Personal Business Trainer

vince dicecco

Vince DiCecco

Your Personal Business Trainer

Vince is a dynamic seminar speaker and author with a unique perspective on business development and management subjects, primarily in the decorated- and promotional-apparel industries. With 20+ years of experience in sales, marketing and training, he is an independent consultant to businesses looking to profit and sharpen their competitive edge.

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