Asking Probing Questions

question marks

Since you all know I like kicking things off with an aphorism, here’s a two-for-one deal: business author Alan Weiss wrote, “Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is a pattern.”

Before that, Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels (you may have heard of him) wrote, “Once is happenstance, twice is a coincidence, three times is enemy action.”

Working as I do with dealers in many different verticals I see patterns. Sometimes they’re easily identified, and other times I have to dig deeper and get more information to find out what’s going on. Normally I try to keep my columns agnostic and not talk specifically about the brands I work with. I don’t want to sound like I’m using my columns as an opportunity to promote my brands shamelessly. But in order for me to tell you this story, there are some things you need to know.

One of the brands I rep is RAM Mounts. It offers solutions for mounting phones, tablets and laptops in vehicles. My dealers for them either work in or are adjacent to fleet management.

What you need to know about RAM Mounts is that most of its solutions require combining three different parts: the cradle that holds the device, a pivot arm and a base that secures the mount to the vehicle (dash or floorboard, for example). Picking and choosing different options creates customized solutions.

Down to business. In the last week, I received queries from multiple dealers asking for volume quotes on RAM Mounts products. That’s not unusual. What was unusual was they were all only looking for the cradles for phones or tablets.

A lazy rep would just answer back with pricing and ETA to fulfill. But — at least some of the time — I’m not lazy.

I clearly didn’t have enough information, so I responded to all the queries with the same question: Okay, but what about the arms and bases? The answer was simple and unanimous: In all cases, the client is upgrading their mobile devices, and the work trucks in their fleet already have the mounts installed: bases and arms. They just need new cradles that fit their phones or tablets.

Fair enough, and now I know. In this case, the emerging trend seems to be fleet companies upgrading their mobile devices. That’s useful information to take back to my team.

What I didn’t want to do was blindly take orders, ship them and then have any of my dealers come back and say “Oops! This wasn’t what we meant, we need something else!”

I know this is a drum I regularly beat, but it bears repeating: Always, always, ALWAYS, ask lots of questions. Take the answers you get, probe deeper and ask even more questions. Inform yourself, and by extension, your client.
We all know that sometimes what the client is asking for either isn’t what they meant or deep down it’s not what they really needed all along.

The end result of asking more and deeper probing questions into needs and wants is a better sale. It may be a bigger sale, and that’s nice too. But even so, a smaller sale that does a better job of satisfying the client’s needs and wants is still better than a larger one that left them not fully satisfied. Not to mention that taking really good care of them goes a long way toward them coming back to you when they need something else later on.