When Innocent Questions Turn Into Hours Of Unpaid Time.

Someone calls you up and is interested in your offer. So, they start asking questions. And more questions. And more questions.

Suddenly, you’ve been on the phone for over an hour. And, when you hang up, they still didn’t sign up for your offer.

You spent enough time on the phone, and answered enough questions that if they were a client, you would’ve sent an invoice.

When is it okay to say “I charge for that” and turn the meter on?

Why so many questions? And why do you spend so much time on the phone with them?

Questions aren’t always what they appear to be. In many instances, the answer to the question asked isn’t what they are -really- looking for.

“Are you my mommy?”

In a children’s book “Are you my mommy?” a small bird becomes separated from her mother, and goes searching from animal to animal. She asks a dog, a pig, a horse, “Are you my mommy?”

The little bird was feeling lost and needing help. As a little chick, she asked directly: “Are you my mommy? Is this home?”

As adults, we’ve learned that the world is sometimes a scary place, and it doesn’t feel safe to be vulnerable. So we don’t ask, “Is it safe here?” Instead, the questions tend to come out, “What are all the components to this class? What are all the ingredients in this product?”

Until that person gets their real question answered, they are going to keep asking. And asking. And asking.

Wouldn’t you?

The real question they are asking is…

They are asking if you are going to care for, support, and guide them. Can they rely on you? Is what you’re offering really going to work? An hour’s worth of questions basically trying to find out if there is enough safety, connection and trust here for them to say, “Yes.”

So, how do you answer their questions that will help them become a client, without spending an hour, being rude, or treating them like a child (which they aren’t)?

Keys to Turning on the Meter

* What questions do people ask you repeatedly?

If you’ve had a number of these conversations, you’ve probably heard certain questions over and over again. Brainstorm those questions, write up the answers, and put them on a web page, pdf, or some other document you can email them.

Because the people who are calling you aren’t children, they do need some information. Write it up and give it to them.

* Close the book and take charge.

I’m guessing you may approach a conversation with a prospect using an ‘open book’ approach. You become an open book, and you invite them to ask any questions they may have.

Except that you are the expert. If you were to ask a brain surgeon about brain surgery, and you needed an operation, what kind of questions would you ask? “Uh… does it hurt?” That’s right, you don’t know what the most important questions are, so you’ll just keep throwing darts in the dark, hoping that your need for connection, safety and trust will be met.

I don’t know about you, but I’d be nervous if a brain surgeon invited me to just ask her questions, before she had assessed me or asked me any questions of her own. Questions designed to help the surgeon know what’s really going on and how best to procede. And also questions designed to set me at ease, as the patient.

Your work may not be brain surgery, but the questions you ask communicate: “I’m confident. I know what’s going on. I’m going to take care of you. We will get you help.”

* What do you recommend?

After 15 or 20 minutes of questioning a prospect, I’m guessing you’ll know as much as you need to know in order to make a recommendation: “I can help you, and I believe that ten sessions will probably get you the results you want, or at least help you make a LOT of progress in that direction.”

Of course, it is polite to let them ask you questions. But, after questioning them, and having a clear picture of how to work with them, it will be much easier to say: “The question you are asking is an excellent one. Here is a piece of the answer: X-Y-Z. And, I’m wondering what you think of my recommendation.”

* Advanced tip: Web forms.

You can take a handful of your preliminary questions that you would ask almost anyone, and put them into a form on a webpage that they can fill out. The same page that has the answers to frequently asked questions.

If someone is willing to fill out your form, it’s more probable that they are serious in their inquiry. And, you will have a place to start having an informed conversation with them.