Wednesday, January 24, 2018

"Asking Questions Is Just Part Of Communicating With Our Clients"

To learn what our clients are experiencing and how we can help them, we need to gather information. One way to this is just to be observant and to listen. A second way is to ask questions and then to listen to the responses and note how they describe what is going in the client's home and life. A third is to have information shared with us by family members, caregivers, healthcare professionals, and strategic partners that are involved in working with the client or helping to create solutions for them.

Each of these three strategies is important and useful in building an overall picture of what the client's needs are and how to approach them. They all involve various levels and forms of communication - expressing and learning what is desired, necessary, and possible for our aging in place clients.

Even before asking questions verbally, we can ask questions with our eyes and ears - looking for what is going on around us in the client's living space and listening for verbal clues of the client's concerns before ever intentionally engaging them.

Of course, asking questions is how we learn what our clients need and how we structure a solution to help them. While there are some basic items that we want to cover and learn about - depending on the visible needs of our client and the age and condition of their home - there is no script to use. It's all natural and unrehearsed except for a few background items that typically are obtained from everyone.

Asking questions is the most effective when it comes from a curious need to know information rather than from any type of prearranged or rehearsed format. When we really like people, take an interest in them, and want to help them, we ask questions of them to determine their needs and the best way to proceed to accommodate those requirements.

Rather than starting off a presentation, interview, or personal encounter with what we can do or how great we are - we will get to that in due time - we should begin by getting to know our clients and what they are wanting to accomplish. They may have certain needs because their current home doesn't allow them to do some of the things they want to do, or they have some physical limitations that are restricting their ability to use their home effectively.

There may be areas of their home that have been concerning them for years that they just have never addressed. It may have been financial, timing, or just procrastination. Maybe they weren't sure that this was going to be their forever home. Possibly their ability to get around well in their home has decreased so they are acting upon that situation.

Some of the issues that our clients are facing may be readily apparent from a physical inspection and evaluation of their home. They might voluntarily share some things that are on their mind. The rest we have to work for by having a conversation with them - not to complete a rigid interview format but just to learn what is going on and how we might want to propose a solution.

We can easily complicate the sales process by trying to take it in the direction we want it to go and trying to achieve what we want to accomplish. That's fine to a point, but the entire presentation - a conversation really - has to about them, not us. There's plenty of time to talk about what we can do, and what we have done in similar situations, as we discuss and relate it to what they need and want done.


Some people are going to be less clear about what they want done or what they might benefit from having done than others. This is where skillful questioning becomes important so that we can uncover their concerns or apprehensions about making changes to their home, working with a contractor, or having strangers in their home - in addition to helping them verbalize what might make their lives more enjoyable or safe.

Input from caregivers, healthcare professionals, family members, advisors and other who know and care about the clients can provide additional insight as well.

It not about making the sale as much as it is learning what we can do to help people and then getting their agreement to allow us to do it. Then both of us can get what we want.


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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place books. To learn about this and other programs for aging in place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.