"How can we help?"
This question is one many salespeople ask, and it is both simple and complex. It is a favorite question for many people - all of whom seem to be well-intended. Yet in most situations, this is a poor question to ask. Why?
Simply put, it's not the customer's job to know the answer!
In order to answer the question, "How can we help?" someone would need to understand the customer's business, situation, environment, challenges and desired future state. They would also need to understand our own resources, capabilities, expertise, and sources of value that can be brought together in the form of a solution. They would then need to artfully bring their understanding and solution ideas together and communicate them in an inspiring way to the right people.
That's what we do! Finding the answer to the question, "How can we help?" is the essence of our role in sales and relationship management.
That said, are there ever times it might be okay to ask this question? Yes - when you have a strong relationship with the customer, and they understand you and your company's capabilities. But even in this situation, asking that question can be limiting.
Instead of asking, "How can we help?", dig in and do your research. Find out more about the situation they are in and where they want to be in the future. Doing this research will expand your knowledge and heighten the importance of the issue.
Then ask a different question,
"Given what you shared, I believe there could be a strong fit between our companies. When can we get back together to review some ideas and recommendations?"