While working on a new campaign for a client we spent a few hours looking at competitive websites, ads and brochures.

After about three hours we looked at each other and said, "Can you remember anything any of these companies said that stands out?" My colleague said, "I bet if I took all these brochures, and removed the company name and logo, even our client couldn't tell them apart!"

Every single firm started their pitch with a description of their products and services, and lots of detail on how great they are. Then they added thrilling descriptions of their plants (usually with a picture of the parking lot) and a price list.

Not one company acknowledged any of the questions, concerns or worries prospects or customers might have. It was all me! me! me!

It's too easy these days to build your marketing around what you want to offer. The real trick is to package products customers want to buy .

People make buying decisions in ways that we may find hard to imagine. The mental, logical process and the emotional, feel-good process come together at some point in every sale. The problem is that this process is invisible to the marketer.

The questions prospects ask are clues to what matters to them. So, forget about the shiny new features of your gizmo and address what's really on their minds. Do it now, because some of your prospects won't think to actually ask, they'll just move on.

Every time a prospect or client asks a question, write it down. Collect these questions on an ongoing basis, and make every sales person note the questions they receive. In a short time you will see patterns developing. If you are getting some of the same questions over and over again you can bet that your marketing materials need to address the answers.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) pages are popular on websites. Create one for your sales team as well. Make a game out of getting good questions. Ask everyone in your organization to bring a client or prospect question to a weekly sales meeting. This should include everyone who has any contact with clients.

It's important to develop the art of asking questions, too. Every sales trainee has been schooled at some point to ask probing questions to find a prospect's biggest concern, but really successful sales folks go beyond that to fully understand what a prospective client is thinking.

Don't take a potential client's question at face value -- your job is to help them understand what they really need to know. Sometimes all you need to do is ask them to "tell you more."

For example, a stock question is "What is your customer service policy?" The temptation is to launch into how great your service is (just like everyone else), but a more valuable step is to find out what good service is to them or what bad experiences they may have had, so you can customize your answer.

If you really want to make massive improvements in your sales, service and communications technique, buy a mini digital recorder and record several sales calls. Some clients and prospects will be a little nervous about this practice so you will need to choose who to ask wisely and respect their boundaries, but do this once or twice and you may make some pretty interesting discoveries.

Another great thing about gathering your list of questions is that it arms you with the questions and answers that your prospects may not actually ask but are thinking.

Our mentor John Jantsch suggests that every organization should create a marketing page and web page that is titled something like "Questions you should ask." In some cases your prospect may not really know how to analyze a purchase from you. If you educate them on the best way to think about your product or service, give them the questions to pose to competitors, you get to frame the buying decision in a way that plays to your strengths.

One way to do that is to create a survey. Online surveys have become a powerful tool for the small business. By asking your clients everything from "How much should I charge?" to "What's the best colour for our logo?" you can test your assumptions before you push something out to the market. Creating a simple satisfaction survey and serving them up to each individual customer allows you to find holes in your customer service and collect comments --both good and bad -- from the street.

For example, planning what your readers would like to hear more about in your next five newsletters is as simple as proposing topics in a survey.

It can also be a way to get a bit more press. Journalists love survey results and will often take great interest in the results of research conducted by an industry expert -- which would mean you. Conducting some basic research about trends and habits in your industry is a great way to add some expert status to your brand and could land your results in a publication or two about your industry.

Sharing your survey results with prospective clients is a great way to help educate them on important information that may impact their buying decisions.

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