True Problem-​Solving Begins with Questions

BY Rachel Cagle
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Your client has called an urgent meeting with you, indicating that something is wrong. You rush over, the client explains the situation and instead of asking for help, they suggest a solution using your product or service. It may even be an unconventional solution. Should you take that request at face value? MTD Sales Training Specialists writer Sean McPheat says no. 

Think about it. How many times in the past have various clients approached you with their own solutions on how to achieve something? How many times have they done so without talking with you about it first? And how many times have you gone along with it and afterwards realized you could have thought of a more effective solution? Even knowing all that, you still don’t want to upset your client by questioning their solution. 

The thing is, your client wouldn’t be approaching you for help if they didn’t trust you’re the authority who can get things done. So, don’t hold back if you feel your client is jumping to conclusions. McPheat recommends deconstructing the client’s request in order to get to the heart of the problem and see if their solution truly is the best course of action.

For example, what if the client says they read the specs on the tents you sold them, and they think they can set up the party tents you sold them without hiring your professionals because they think it will go faster? Or maybe they only want to hire one of your professionals and hire freelancers for the rest of the work. If you ask questions McPheat recommends such as, “What problem would this course of action solve?” and “What’s the cause of your current problem?”, you can get to the heart of the matter, which is that your client wants to save money. Then, you can suggest alternative solutions, such as they need to do more advertising to increase attendance at the event they rented the tents for.

With those questions, your meetings goes from beginning to follow a potentially rushed solution plan to a brainstorming session. You and your client are now working as a team to identify the problem they’re trying to fix and find the best solution together. Often, that solution won’t be what was previously suggested.

So, the next time your client calls a meeting to tell you what their current needs are, don’t be afraid to talk with them about the solution they came up with. You’re not being rude. You’re not doubting them. You’re helping them discover the best way to truly solve their problems.