Week 026 – Play the Good Fairy – Chapter 07

The pressure to act has an identical twin: the desired benefit. While the former moves the customer away from a situation, the latter urges him toward a future situation. The picture of this future situation is what I call vision.

Find The Motive - Play the Good Fairy © Miriam Dörr

Find The Motive – Play the Good Fairy © Miriam Dörr

A vision is the image of a possible future. It’s difficult to engage in something that you cannot imagine. My grandmother used to say, “If you visit the doctor because of a cold, the cold will last 14 days. If you don’t – two weeks.” She literally couldn’t imagine a doctor being able to help.

Therefore it’s not a bad idea to provide the decision maker with a notion of the benefit he will derive from collaborating with you. But how do you ask the right questions concerning his benefit expectation? By appealing to his creativity and power of imagination.

To clarify this point I will resume the conversation from last week’s episode:

Salesperson (addressing consequences): “A one-percent increase in interest. What monetary consequences would this have on your company in the coming business year?”

Customer: “Well, that’s what we want to avoid. Purely in terms of the numbers, it would mean around $45,000 per year of additional financing costs for our debt capital.”

Salesperson: “Assuming we could do something about this, in concrete terms what goal would satisfy you?”

Customer: “Well, the risk of higher interest rates would have to be taken care of.”

Salesperson: “OK, I think that could be arranged. And how would you tell that this goal had been reached?”

Customer: “If our consultant at the bank reveals his criteria to us and judges them to have been met by your solution.”

Salesperson: “I understand. So, if we meet the bank’s criteria and maintain their risk assessment (or even improve it), that would be reason enough for you to seriously consider making the investment?”

Customer: “Yes, that would be feasible, in particular if the amount invested and return on investment match up.”

Salesperson: “In what ratio would the amount invested and the return on investment have to be?”
Customer: “We only invest in projects if the ROI is reached within 18 months.”

Salesperson: “OK, in other words, if in addition to maintaining the risk assessment we can show you an ROI forecast that you can agree to and that can be realized within 18 months or less, then we can do business?”

Customer: “If we manage all of that, then it looks promising to me.”

This exchange illustrates that it is useful to have a look at the situation from the customer’s perspective and to find out about his criteria for future success. A certain benefit can only be created once you’ve understood precisely what the customer wants. This is done through questions.

Have a look at the following examples for the formulation of benefit questions:

“Dear Customer, imagine I am a fairy and you had three wishes at your disposal; what improvements in relation to (your business software) would you ideally wish for in 2015?”

“Say we meet again in a year’s time and look back on a successful project. In relation to (your business software), what is the thing that will have shown improvement in concrete, verifiable terms?”

The underlying structure of these examples is the same. Feel free to apply this structure to your sales pitches.

1. Creative Hypotheticals

Create more or less creative hypotheticals – the crazier the hypothetical situation, the better the power of imagination. If you ask, “What will have changed?” you will most likely get a cautious answer, or you might even hear something like, “Well, I can’t predict the future.” However if you deliberately use the conditional aspect and thereby leave the possibility open that things might really turn out this way, you will render your customer more willing to project his desired future.

2. Positive Focus

Steer the customer’s focus toward a “successful project”, simply by asking the right questions. Use these formulations and the desired result will emerge in the mind of the client.

3. A Concrete Future

Provide concrete time frames. Although I chose a rather unrealistic hypothetical situation in the earlier examples in order to stimulate the imagination, I offered a precise time frame. This will make sure that the client does not simply speculate wildly, but proposes realistic results.

Your goal is it, to identify both, the client’s benefit and his pain, since these two elements are vital for an investment decision. Together they reveal the client’s need.

A latent need means that someone has a use for something, but she won’t move to a decision until the use becomes a real need. . Professional salespeople and consultants are able to separate the wheat from the chaff. Top sales professionals use questions in order to readily find those clients who are most likely to come to a decision. Focus on finding the client’s concrete need and thus optimize your chances for closing successful deals!

Next week I will shed a light on some snares, which may influence the way you pose questions.

Best wishes,
Stephan Heinrich