No Argument (Issue 464)

In which we learn to set context with past - present - future questions  when a client or prospect asks for product information.

I was at a banking  industry trade show two weeks ago. In the exhibit room, a prospective customer approached a vendor booth. After smiles and handshakes, we heard:

Prospect: “Tell me about your product X.”

Sales Rep: “This is our newest offering. Product X enables you to blah blah so you can see whether your customers are humma humma.”

Prospect: “Interesting. We’re already doing that.”

Sales Rep: “What are you doing?”

Prospect: “We’re doing wonk wonk. “

Sales rep: “Oh, well, we’re talking about something a little different. You’re doing wonk wonk. I’m talking about blah blah.”

… and now we had an argument between prospect and sales rep.

Notice that the sales rep-in-the-booth didn’t ask a single question after “what are you doing?” (which was a pretty good question). S/he went right to pitch. What could the rep-in-the-booth have done differently?

PAST , PRESENT, FUTURE

We’ll start at the moment when the prospect describes her current strategy:

Prospect: “We’re already doing that…. We’re doing wonk wonk.”

Sales rep (looking to the past to set a foundation) : “Ah, interesting….. What led you to take that approach?

<Prospect answer>

Sales rep (staying in the past and edging toward thepresent) : “How has that been working for you?”

<Prospect answer>

Sales rep (more past and present) : “What’s been changing in your environment since you chose wonk wonk?”

<Prospect answer>

Sales rep (now shifting to the future) : “As you look into the future, how do you think your environment will change?”

<Prospect answer>

Sales rep (more future) : “What sorts of gaps or challenges might those changes create for you?”

<Prospect answer>

Sales rep (staying in the future) : What are your thoughts at this point about addressing those gaps and challenges?”

<Prospect answer>

Sales rep (continuing in the future) : “So, one group of challenges it sounds like you’ll face is X. Here’s the value that our product creates to fill in those gaps.”

So, rather than answering directly when asked, “Tell me about product X,” the rep establishes a context by looking to the past and present. Then, by looking into the future, the sales rep is moving away from “no need now” into a future time when there could be a need. Based on information about the future, and using the context of the past and present,  the rep is able to choose an appropriate benefit for that may prompt the prospect to stop and think.  Thus, no argument.  Just good engagement and thinking.

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