DIFFICULT QUESTIONS from customers or
suppliers can make you cringe. But a few insights
and a little preparation can take the pressure off
handling even the toughest questions.
Recognizing the motivation behind a request
tells you which of three types of questions you’re
confronted with and how best to respond.
Message questions. These aren’t actually ques-
tions. The person is using a question format to
make a point, share information or state a personal
conviction. They might begin with something like
“Don’t you think ... ?” or “Did you know … ?”
The effective way to deal with the message
question is to say, “I get your point,” “Thank you
for pointing this out” or “I see you’ve given this a
great deal of thought. I share your concern. My
thinking is ... .”
Gotcha questions. These are much tougher,
because the goal is to make you anxious, flustered,
embarrassed, guilty or angry. Gotcha questions
often begin with “Why” or “How come,” and they
account for about ;; percent of questions people
ask, such as “I thought you were going to …” or
“How could you have missed …?”
The secret is to keep your cool and turn these
questions to your advantage by asking what’s
bothering the asker and addressing that.
Answer-seeking questions. These are the only
questions that truly seek an answer. Some of these
questions are challenging, such as “Can you give
me a discount?” or “Could I get this sooner?” or
“Could you take this back?”
These are questions you should have prepared
answers for, or at the very least a response such
as “Let me consider that” or “I’ll have to think
about that and get back to you ASAP.”
Regardless of the type of question, here are
some tips that can help:
• Don’t rush your answer.
• Keep the focus on what you can do, not what
• Encourage a dialogue with the person if you
need more information or clarification.
• Use encouraging language, a positive calm
tone of voice and a welcoming facial expression.
Tough questions are part of life, but handling
them well will increase your reputation and lead
to return or new business. C
BY RACHEL HARTMAN
WHEN DONE well, connecting with
another local business can be mutually
beneficial: You’ll both gain the chance to
promote your specialties to a wider audience, which can lead to future clients and
a boost in your bottom line.
To ensure success, “invest some time in
developing the partnership,” advises Endrea
Kosven, a Costco member and founder of
EDK & Company, a marketing agency that
works with small businesses.
Follow these strategies to build a
Initiate contact. Once you have another
company in mind, set up a meeting to discuss what you’d like to see as a result of the
partnership. This may include building
brand awareness, sending out promotions
for a new product or increasing sales during
an upcoming holiday season.
Start out small. Use your existing social
media channels to help promote your partners, advises Spencer X. Smith, a Costco
member and digital marketing consultant.
A landscaping business and a garden center
might post current discounts and upcoming
deals for each other on their Facebook pages
and to Twitter followers.
If you run a restaurant with delivery
services and partner with a florist, you
might include a coupon for the floral shop
with each delivery for the next month.
Meanwhile, the floral company could place
a promotion, such as a free appetizer, with
each of its floral arrangements.
Go for more. “Test out different promotions and see what works over the long term,”
suggests Kosven. Future endeavors, such as
a community event or email newsletter sent
out to your customer lists, could help further
expand your reach and have a positive
impact on everyone involved. C
Rachel Hartman is a freelance writer who
frequently covers small-business topics.
PAUL AND SARAH
Paul and Sarah Edwards
are the authors of ;;
MORE IN ARCHIVES
Win-win: How to partner
with other local businesses
solid bond with another business and grow
from the connection.
Focus on compatibility. When searching
for potential partners, think complementary: If you run a fitness center, establishing
a relationship with a local sporting goods
store might be a good fit. “Businesses that
share a similar theme can band together
and create a neighborhood event that
attracts their target market,” says Kosven.
A local toy store, a children’s clothing
store and a family-friendly restaurant
could create a kid-focused fair.
FOR YOUR BUSINESS