So What (Issue 458)

In which we learn the importance of asking for the story behind the story before we present our recommendations. Someone made the mistake this week of asking me, "If you could only teach one skill to improve sales performance, what would it be?" That's a question akin to, "If you could boil the meaning of life down to one sentence, what would it be?"

Never mind, I enjoy a good challenge. After much thought, here’s my answer for today: “So what?” I would teach and coach people to ask the “so what?” question and its variations of themselves and their Clients relentlessly. The variations are:

  • What’s important about that?
  • What leads you to say that now?
  • How will that help you?
  • What positive or negative outcomes will occur if you do/don’t do that?

The “general model” would be something like this:

Client: We’d like to grow 10% per year for the next two years.

Seller: What’s important about that?

Client: Blabba blabba blabba.

Seller: What leads you to say THAT now?

Client: Blabba blabba blabba.

Seller: So, what other positive outcomes will occur if you’re able to grow 10% per year?

Client: Blabba blabba blabba.

Seller: And what’s important to you about those outcomes?

For example:

Client: I been thinking that I should have a higher percentage of my investments in fixed income securities.

Seller: Interesting point. What leads you to say that now?

Client: Well, I’m feeling a little burned after the last 12 months in the stock market.

Seller: Yes…

Client: I want to feel more secure about the value of my investments.

Seller: So, reduce the volatility of your portfolio value?

Client: Yes.

Seller: I understand. And, what positive outcomes will occur if you’re able to reduce the volatility?

Client: I will worry less about money to live on when I retire. I’m pretty healthy, you know.

Seller: Yes, you are. That’s terrific. So you’re concerned about your monthly cash flow when you retire?

Client: Yes.

Seller: And, is there anything in particular that has prompted you to focus on your retirement income today, with me?

Whatever the Client says next is probably the heart of the issue for her.

Use these questions when your Client, prospect, friend, or colleague presents a conclusion or makes a request. If you assume that every behavior (physical or verbal) has meaning, your “so what” questions will help you find the meaning and direct your conversation directly to the point.

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