My site’s survey and re-launch reveal 5 glaring reasons why you should ask questions.

What a customer survey can teach you about barking up the wrong tree.

Ask qualifying questions and survey your market
A survey sets you straight

Late last year I asked you to respond to a survey and you did brilliantly. I’ve always said people love to be asked and they love to answer. That’s why we should ask questions;

  • before we start presenting our product or service to make sure our message will be appropriate,
  • on the way through our presentation to check if we are being relevant,
  • to check whether the prospect wants to know more or less,
  • to raise an opportunity for them to ask us a question,
  • at the end to let them buy, or agree to our plan.

If you don’t ask questions, how else will you know whether you are selling the right thing to the right person at the right time and at the right price?


My reader survey reminded me of five things I teach, and I confess I often forget to do myself. It appears that the sages might be right when they say, The carpenter’s gate always squeaks! This is a longer post that those I will be writing because it outlines why I made you a new site altogether and gives you a chance to examine your approach to your own customers’ needs.

Reason No. 1 why you should ask questions or take a survey: You can test whether you’re barking up the wrong tree.

When you are selling you can check whether you are howling at a cat that’s nowhere in sight. If you’ve been in business a while you should ask whether you are still offering a relevant product or service. You might have lost the plot altogether. In my case all I can say is, ‘Thanks for the headache!’ You told me enough stuff to make me re-think my entire approach to my web site and newsletter and I’ve spent three months having a re-invention. I toyed with all kinds of ideas that pleased me. But when I looked at the data through honest and self -effacing eyes, I discovered the cat was up another tree altogether. It’s been the headache I had to have. You probably need one just like it.

How a good idea drifts

You start with a flourish. You have a clever idea and it mutates into several great ideas. You make some sales. You get some clients. You get busy serving and supplying them. You are building a business and a brand. You hire some help. You suffer the inevitable complications of being an employer. Then changes of government, new regulations, IT upgrades, supplier failures, market corrections and client fatigue all interfere with your sanity. Your kids go through puberty, your wife needs a new challenge and your key clients retire, get bought out, go out of business or die. You didn’t refresh, regenerate or re-invent. As for me, I kept on pumping out the Kick in the Pants Newsletter for 17 years and refreshed my web site with a face lift now and then but I wasn’t active or deliberate about the main thing: YOU!

So what did you tell me, when I asked?

You told me almost the opposite of what I believed about you. Briefly;

  • You are mostly men, married and aged 46 – 64, whereas I thought you were an even mix of both sexes and a lot younger.
  • You are mostly in business ownership and management and earn more than the Australian average income of $74,724 p.a. (as of census 2014). Your income ranges from $85,000 through $100,000 to more than $200,000. I thought there were more employees on the list.
  • You say you’re a bit heavier than you ought to be and get a bit overwhelmed. Heavier, I understand because my readers live in some of the fattest nations but your being overwhelmed wasn’t something I’d thought about.
  • You get stuck sometimes. The Lovely Christine says this is the human condition, but again not something I had thought about for my readers.
  • I knew you were smart but you made it clear that you are well educated too. 61% of you have tertiary qualifications.

Glaringly obvious reason No. 2 why you should ask questions: You can find out you have more value than you thought.

If your sales are wobbly it’s easy to think there is something wrong with the prospects/customers on one hand, or that you on the other hand, have passed your use-by date.

What you said you like about what I’ve been putting out

  • Two thirds of you like my stories and anecdotes.
  • More than half of you like me to be witty.
  • Most of you appreciate my life observations and advice.
  • You find my management insights helpful.
  • You like my customer service tips.
  • And you find my personal motivation beneficial.

Over the years people have written nice comments about how a message came at the right time for a particular crisis or to help someone they know, but asking in a survey tells me much more. The gratitude as great, but there were things I didn’t know.

Glaringly obvious reason No. 3 why you should ask questions: You can find out what else to offer that you haven’t thought up yet.

I plead guilty. Like most salespeople, business owners, managers – even teachers, pastors and politicians – I’ve been guessing. I’ve been chucking small bait out of the boat hoping the fish would jump in and ask for more. I didn’t really know what the fish wanted to eat, nor how they preferred to be caught, because I didn’t ask. And here was I bagging other people for doing that! Oops!
Salespeople rush about trying to flog the product of the month and sales managers measure performance on this alone. Each party overlooks the fact that the consumer might be primed to buy something else entirely, if only someone would ask the right question.

Here are the biggest surprises

I would never have known this had I not made the survey.

  • You get discouraged.
  • A large number of you are disappointed that you have not capitalised so well on your talent and opportunities.
  • You are frustrated over not getting things done.

I imagined this could have been the case, but I didn’t know it meant so much to so many of you. So I invite you to read the Start Here, and Work with me pages when you’re done with this page.

Glaringly obvious reason No. 4 why you should ask questions: You might be offering stuff your best customers have no feeling for at all.

You could be batting your gums together convincing prospects about stuff that never crossed their mind. There’s an old adage in sales that indicates how hard selling is when you have to educate prospects about your product or your category from the outset.
If you have to educate the prospect about your product before he feels a need for it – let alone want it – you will find it almost impossible to make sales.

Only 20% of you want to read my thoughts on;

  • social issues,
  • political issues,
  • religious issues,
  • current affairs.

Most of you would rather see me in the advice and encouragement business than in the smarty-pants-TVHost-journalist-half-informed-populist-commentary business that I readily criticise and openly disdain. There’s a paradox I hadn’t thought I was perpetuating.

Glaringly obvious reason No. 5 why you should use surveys and ask questions: You might discover your customers definitely want stuff you’re good at, but don’t rate it as highly as you do.

This would be a good discovery. Knowing your customers appreciate all your products and services says you have found your audience, your platform. However knowing how they rate the importance will stop you becoming a Johnny One Note about your personal favourite topic.

You gave these topics the following ratings;

  • Selling ideas, one of my favourites, only scored 41%.
  • Presenting and speaking advice, my hottest skill and favourite of all, blobbed in at 39%.

On these two themes alone I could have decided I am THE expert and you would take what I rammed down your throat. Only trouble is you wouldn’t have taken it at all. If I want to write mainly about those topics, I will have to find a new audience! Simple isn’t it? In fact I did just that. With my long-term video collaborator, Simon Malcolm, I started The Selling Academy.

See? All is not lost from my perspective. You are really telling me that if I produce specialist product or packages on these themes, not all, but at least 39% to 41% of you will be interested and enough of you will buy to make The Lovely Christine happy. Glad I asked.

  • Better marketing copywriting web presence – 35%. I’m good at this too, but the survey shows it’s not as important to you as I want it to be. Too bad. It won’t get my highest attention.
  • Ideas for how to make money – 27%. No biggie for me but a great relief because it’s a tough gig thinking of new ways for other people to make a buck.

Conclusion.

You’re looking at the result of the survey right here on this page.
1. You want help to be successful about how to live well and finish well.

2. You want my help in five main areas so I will be writing in five blog themes. Be. Do. Tell. Sell. Learn.

  • Be: You’re a human being not a human trying or human busting your gizzard. This section is about character and quality of life.
  • Do: You have a passion to do well and I can still give you a nudge or two about that. This is about delivering outstanding gold class performance.
  • Tell: You need to get your message over and make it work for you. Here I help you put your message over in stories and benefit-rich customer-focused language.
  • Sell: Marshall Field taught this: Give the lady what she wants. In other words find out what the prospects want – and let them have it.
  • Learn: School is never out for the professional leader so expect insights for transformation.
  • Whatever: One more theme: I reserve this for when I get an urge to colour outside the lines.

So how about telling me a story where you yourself barked up the wrong tree and learned a lesson. Has conducting a poll or survey given you any surprising insights?
Please leave comments and I will respond. After all, it’s another way of finding out who you are and what you want from me.

I’d also be grateful if you would share this post and invite others to subscribe.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, off-topic or comprise 'ambush marketing' and/or SPAM.

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8 thoughts on “My site’s survey and re-launch reveal 5 glaring reasons why you should ask questions.

  1. Hi Colin,
    I’ve been reading your newsletter for quite a while (I think over a decade) and it has survived the various newsletter culls, so I must enjoy reading it.
    I emailed you to say I would comment on your page, so here it is.
    A little more feedback though: The last word of the first sentence in the penultimate paragraph of this article appears to be missing two letters. Nearly finished well ;). Unless you kick me off your newsletter list, I look forward to reading for years to come.

  2. I think your new focus and new direction is going to be a great resource for us all. I look forward to more of your insights Colin. Today, being in outbound sales seems to be such a ‘negative’ place to try and earn an honest living from a consumer/prospects viewpoint. Consumers seem to be more informed than ever and less likely than ever to act on a good idea or concept.

    • Yes Scott. Thanks. You are right. Old prospecting methods have gone the way of the last tram to Largs Bay. I really feel for the old road warrior and door to door/phone canvassing people.

  3. I admire Colin for asking his readers for their opinions & boldly taking on the comments in order to focus on continual improvement. Many people are too frightened to ask the questions never mind to publish the response for others to read.
    Many thanks for the info & I look forward to seeing where the new focus takes us.

    • Thanks Lynda. Be assured it took me many years to work it out myself. I am however SO pleased I asked. I intend to ask again later this year. Here’s a funny thing. I aim to write for my mature male demographic as stated, but 80% of the requests from current subscribers for the free e-Book have so far come from young women! I shall keep my mind open to see if my demographic is what I discerned it to be from the survey. It’s an on-going adventure, learning about our audience.

  4. I wish I had been able to articulate the feeling I had as well as you have post survey. This is your gift, lots of love M@