An Organisation for all
Accountants in Practice

What's an Open Question?

By Laurence Vogel

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Which of the following statements is true?

1. The business community wants to know what services you offer.
2. The business community is on the lookout for someone to solve their problems.

Truthfully, both are accurate statements, but the second is far more powerful in a sales situation.

For example, if a new business prospect knocks on your door, after the initial introductions what do you say? Do you regale the hapless entrepreneur with the range of services you offer, your qualifications, and the fact that you have been in practice for twenty years? Or do you ask an open question?

Do you ask “How can we help you?”

How can we help you is a powerful open question. It gives the person questioned an opportunity to share their problems. If you can identify problems you can suggest solutions that target issues causing concern.

This conundrum is especially pertinent in the online environment. Does your website ask this basic question? Or does it regale the viewer with information that may, or may not address their concerns?

If you adopt this strategy – to seek out why a person needs your advice – you need to become a good listener. You need to be able to identify and remember their key concerns.

Finally, you should be wary of the advice you give when you have identified a problem. There is a temptation, especially if you are talking with a possible new client, to impress the prospect with the depth and range of your knowledge. Before you know it you will have provided a solution and neither charged them for the advice, or secured their business as a new client.

Published March 2015