Win New Customers by Asking Questions

couple on date asking questions over a table

A speed-dating study reported in the May/June 2018 issue of the Harvard Business Review analyzed whether asking many questions or very few questions would be more beneficial in getting a second date.

The study included two groups. The first group could ask their date at least nine questions in 15 minutes. The second could ask no more than four questions in the same time period. Researchers found the people who asked more questions were more memorable to their speed dating partners. They also were more likely to be asked on a second, more traditional, date.

Is it possible the same result could apply to cleaning contractors when first meeting with a prospective customer? After all, this meeting is a first “date” with a potential customer.

Very likely, the answer is yes.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

Questions are a powerful tool. They unlock learning and build relationships, trust, and bonding, all of which can turn a prospect into a customer. Some jansan distributors now use questions to better understand, analyze, and address customer needs.

Asking questions is a crucial part of consultative selling, also known as solutions-focused selling. This selling method doesn’t involve self-promotion or product promotion, which are part of a more traditional sales approach.However, it has proven effective for many distributors and can be useful for cleaning contractors as well.

Choose Your Questions Carefully

Randomly blurting out questions won’t get the best results. The questioning process needs to follow a sequence that begins with a social conversation.

Before meeting with building managers, find out as much as you can about them on LinkedIn. Read about their background, then put together a list of questions to ask about their past. Remember, people like to talk about themselves.

From here, gradually change your focus and ask more pertinent questions. But be sure to offer your prospects an escape hatch. For instance, start off with, “May I ask you…?” You are asking their permission, and this helps ensure the questioning process moves along comfortably. Here are some examples:

  • “May I ask how satisfied you are with your current cleaning contractor?”
  • “May I ask, are you considering making a change, such as hiring a new contractor, within the next few months?”
  • If you don’t mind my asking, “is there a specific task you would like your contractor to do, or a specific service you would like it to provide, which your current contractor does not offer now?”

It is imperative to pay attention to the conversational dynamics. If prospects look like they are becoming uncomfortable or defensive, back off and return to general friendly conversation. If they appear to be opening up, continue asking questions. This will help both of you gain a solid grasp on the facility’s needs.

It appears speed-daters and great salespeople have more success by asking questions. View the entire questioning process as a dance. The more in sync the partners become, the better the chance these prospects become customers.


Posted On May 30, 2018
Michael Wilson

Michael Wilson

Vice President of Marketing for AFFLINK

Michael Wilson is vice president of marketing for AFFLINK, a global leader in supply chain optimization, providing clients with innovative processes, such as the ELEVATE™ process, as well as procurement solutions to drive efficiencies in today’s leading businesses. He can be reached through his company website at

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