Do You Know The Way?

In which we describe a simple technique which opens the door to differentiation and higher value added. I walk hills for fun and exercise.  Midway through Saturday's walk, I could hear a car approaching me from the rear, slowing down... stopping.... rolling again.... stopping...coming closer... stopping.  Remembering Spiro Agnew's observation that "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you,"

I stopped and turned to face…

Two people in a small silver sedan. “Good morning,” I retorted.

“Hi,” said the driver. “How do we get to Strawberry Hill Road from here?”

“To the top of this hill, turn left, down to the bottom, left at the four-way intersection, then straight for a half-mile.”

He nodded. Not really understanding. I repeated the instructions. “Straight, top, left, bottom, left, straight.”

Another semi-understanding nod.

“OK,” said his passenger. “We’ve got it. Thanks.”

“By the way,” I said. “Where are you trying to go?”

“Concord Center,” replied the driver.

“Oh,” said I, “then you want to turn right on Strawberry Hill Road when you get there.”  And then realized that he could get there a lot faster if I changed the directions. I looked at him for a moment, and decided against it. He’d never be able to manage another set of directions.

This scenario plays out over and over in sales conversations. Our prospects or customers say, “We want to X” or “How could we do  Y?” or “Come in and do a presentation on Z.”

“We want to increase our line of credit” or “We want to buy sales training” or “Can you tell us how you set up servers to support an intranet?”  “Come in and do a presentation on lock box.” This is like the driver asking, “How do you get to Strawberry Hill Road.”

What wonderful bait!  Yet, just as I could have saved the silver sedan driver time had I asked “Where do you want to end up?”  we can frequently save our clients time if we drop back and ask questions about the end point, then offer our counsel about how best to get there.

“Increase our line of credit” could turn into a discussion of equipment loans and other financing tools to support growth. “Set up servers” could turn into a discussion of document management and storage.

If we take the bait and run with it, we allow our clients to dictate the terms of discussion and set up brutally efficient “apples to apples” comparisons of us with other providers, even if they’ve got it all wrong. If we step back and say, “What’s the main objective here?”  we have a chance to use our expertise, differentiate ourselves from others, and open the door to a higher profit margin on the deal, reflecting the value we’re able to help our client create.

(c) Clarity Advantage Corporation, 2009. All rights reserved.

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