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3 Simple Questions to Ask Before Entering a Business or Service Contract

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With the economy being the way it is, I see many of my Twin Cities friends puzzled by advertisements from local businesses and questioning proposed offers that seem, well, more generous than they remember in the past. Whether it is switching cable companies, refinancing a mortgage or even considering doing a project with a colleague, it's important to know what you're agreeing to!

As an independent contractor, I consider business service and project opportunities pretty often. I've made some mistakes along the way, I'll admit. Sometimes, I didn't read the fine print or get all of the information I needed to really understand what was required of me in the contract.

In this light, I've developed a "3 Simple Questions" rule that I now follow. The consequences of such decisions are important - you need to discern the genuine from the self-serving offers out there.

Ask the business or individual these questions - listen intently, do not jump into their explanations:

  1. "How does this program benefit me? Please walk me through that." (Hear their pitch openly - don't ask too many questions yet - your questions will give away your "hot buttons")

  2. After they've shared what it does for you, it's their turn to answer your next query: I know it’s important for you to find success, too. I need to know how this benefits you. Can you walk me through that as well?"

  3. If you feel they are being honest with you, then finally ask:
  4. "How can I best refer business to you? Please explain to me how your referral program works." (This is important - if they want you to actively like the service/program/agreement, a good program will include referral incentives. If there isn't any, proceed with extreme caution!)

Now that you have preliminary information with these 3 Questions (notice I said preliminary), respond with:

“I am interested in what you offer. Could I get that in writing via e-mail to look at one more time? I am pretty sure I get it – but I must read it to understand what I heard – I know you'd agree with me that's important. Let’s set aside time on X date to connect and make a decision.”

Why do you want to read something after you've heard it? We only retain about 20 - 25% of what we hear. You could easily miss 75% of the info you need. That is not very good business and anyone who tries to push you into something without time to read is certainly looking for the sale, not your best interests.

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