122208 What Do You Like About…

In which we learn to ask a specific question to ensure the solutions we propose don't draw out an immediate objection. In the midst of a spectacularly beautiful snow storm, I joined a Christmas party that included immediate neighbors. As I glided past a small gaggle of them to grab a grape, I overheard the end of a discussion in which Neighbor A was expressing concern and a strong point of view about how Neighbor B should handle the snow in his driveway.

Neighbor A: “I just think you’d be better off hiring a plow to come in early so that you don’t get ice in your driveway so you don’t fall, that’s all.”

Neighbor B: “Thank you for your concern. I like leaving the snow in the drive way because it looks pretty and I like paying the kids to clear it.”

What do you think Neighbor A said a few minutes later?

She said: “There’s no talking sense to him about this.”

We’ve had THAT experience in sales conversations, yes? We’ve led a line of questioning, identified one or several client or prospect problems, proposed a solution, and heard “no” or an objection that left us shaking our heads, thinking, there’s no talking sense to this person.

Why is that? Because while WE may think there’s a problem, and WE may see ten reasons why the client should want to fix the problem, and while WE may have a brilliant solution… if the client doesn’t agree there’s a problem or doesn’t want to “fix” whatever we think the problem is… there’s no problem and no reason to propose solutions.

How to find out whether the client agrees there’s a problem? Um… ask a couple of more questions..
There’s the old standard, “How is your current approach working for you?” Nice question, and, unfortunately, a closed ender which can easily draw out the answer, “just great,” even though we think there’s a problem. It doesn’t advance our case.

There’s “Is fixing this problem important to you?” which is better, but still closed, and it leaves us in the same place. You could get the answer, “no,” and then have nowhere to go. Which may be the right answer, and there’s one other thing we can try.

If we ask, “What do you like about the way things are happening now?” we get a different answer because the question is “open” and the answer tells us whether we can integrate “what they like” with what we propose as a solution and get a “yes” instead of a “no” or a dead end.

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