Trust Tip 3: The ABC 20 Question Rule

This comes in two parts: generic and specific. ABC and 20 Questions.

The generic tip is “always be curious”—ABC.  If you’re always curious, you’ll ask good questions. You’ll have to develop some hypotheses in order to come up with questions. You’ll develop insights. You’ll be market-focused, rather than inward focused—always a good place to focus first.

But most importantly, your self-orientation will drop.  Self-orientation is the biggest factor affecting personal trust—if your objectives, goals and focus is on yourself, then to that extent, customers and clients won’t trust you.  As well they shouldn’t.  Being constantly curious transforms self-orientation into customer focus.

The tactical part is the list of 20 questions.  Always have a rolling 20 question list about your client and your customer on hand.  Keep them in a notebook, in your to-do list, in a separate client info/data file.

Keep the questions genuine—questions that you honestly don’t know the answers to, and the knowing of which would add to your knowledge of the company and its issues.  Don’t use gimme questions that you could have looked up; make them richer questions, ones requiring insight or perception.

Now put the two parts together.  At every client interaction, be curious by asking one or two of your questions.  There’s no need to be coy about it—you can tell your client exactly what you’re doing and why. Top up your questions list a day or two later, so it’s always a rich one.

The trick, I think, is discipline in doing it.  This is not a tip that delivers results by thinking about it; you actually have to do it.

And so now I must confess: I’ve been suggesting to people for some time that they do this, and I haven’t been doing it myself.  I don’t like making New Year’s resolutions, but I think I’ll make a December 28 resolution.

I’ll report back to you in a few months on my results.  I’d love to hear yours.

6 replies
  1. Merv Giles
    Merv Giles says:

    Charles, thanks for a wonderfully insightful selling tip. I am in the process of coaching 5 new to sales staff members around the SPIN selling text. Fundamentally this works quite well. However, there remains a challenge around preaching the inherent values of a CVP before we undestand what it is the customer needs. With new sales people the challenge is to put them in thier customers shoes and listen, rather than tell them what we can sell them. Your tip provides some excellent guidance for these new starters

    Thanks, Merv Giles Shell Australia

  2. Michael Benidt
    Michael Benidt says:

    I know very few people in any field who would be as honest as this paragraph at the end of the above post:
    "And so now I must confess: I’ve been suggesting to people for some time that they do this, and I haven’t been doing it myself.  I don’t like making New Year’s resolutions, but I think I’ll make a December 28 resolution."

    I’ve been thinking for the last 24 hours of how many things I suggest to people that I don’t do myself, and I’m embarrassed at how many I’ve come up with.

    However, I’m not as willing as Charles to bare my soul and tell you what they are. I am, however, making my own December 28th Resolutions just because of this blog post.

    Or, said another way, (I just read this in another blog and it says it perfectly) – "This one is going to leave a mark and I couldn’t agree more with the author."

  3. Maureen Rogers
    Maureen Rogers says:

    A bit belatedly, thanks for a very useful post. As a marketer, one of the first things I do with a new customer is sit down and do an FAQ. It’s never intended to be an externally-facing, piece of collateral FAQ, but rather a look at the hard questions about what the company does, who their market is, why people buy their products, etc. Answering these questions forces us all to be crystal clear about things, and provides the basis for all product positioning and messaging.

    While we do tend to revisit the FAQ every once in a while, I like your idea of keeping it new, fresh and active.

  4. Michelle Riley
    Michelle Riley says:

    Wow!. I’m sort of speechless. I can’t tell you how often I leave a client only to realize I have so many unanswered questions about him/her (professionally and personally). I get so task-oriented that I forget lean back in my chair give the client an opportunity to share. Great advice.


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