Seeing the Flaws (Issue 423)

In which we're reminded to dig into details when we ask questions. If you were to ask me, "how's your house?" I would say, "Great.... a couple of creaks and groans and... just fine" However, if you were buying my house, you'd bring your team of inspectors and you'd find a lot to write down on your list: Some unevenness in the brick path to the front door, some sagging in the lawn, a little water staining in the garage, a ding in the upstairs corridor wall.

As you were walking the property, I’d be thinking, “This is a great house,” and you’d be thinking, “Ugh, there is SO much to be done here. How can he live like this?” And, we’d both smile at each other and keep our thoughts to ourselves. “Lovely house,” you’d say. “Thank you,” I’d beam.

Why is this? Because I’ve gotten used to living with small dings and water stains and a couple of dozen other small flaws that develop in well-lived in houses. I don’t even see them any more. They’re just… part of the house.

Our clients and prospects suffer from the same “vision” problem. They’ve gotten used to living with flaws or “the old ways of doing things.” They’re just part of the company. They don’t even see them any more.

If we ask a prospect, “How’s it going with managing your payment cycle?” she might say, “It’s great… a couple of creaks and groans and…. just fine.” She’s gotten used to the imperfections. She doesn’t see them any more. She doesn’t think about the possible impact of newer methods.

However, if we asked her more questions, encouraging her to share with us, step by step, how her staff manages the payment cycle, the time her staff spends on each step, and the cost of each step, what she couldn’t see before, she might see clearly….. 1 hour here, 2 hours there, a week’s delay here, another week there, errors at this point, time and costs to repair the errors. It’s like a real estate agent pointing out flaws in a house to an owner putting a house on the market.

Reflecting on these details, she might think, “We’re wasting three weeks and probably $300 a month that we don’t have to waste.” She’d see the magnitude of the problem and reach her own conclusions.

When we’d then ask, “Would you be open to an idea about how to recover that wasted time and money?” she might say, “Yes, what are you thinking?” instead of saying, “No thanks, we’re fine, and whatever you’re selling is too expensive.”

When we’d say, “It’s $100 a month,” she could say, “Hey, I’m saving money at that price because my current process is costing me three times that,” and she could be open to buy because she’d see exactly how much value she’d gain through the purchase.

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