Sunday, September 12, 2010

Talking Business Impact

I recently spent a few hours with one my Account Managers discussing the topic of how to ask compelling questions to customers about their business.  We came up with an interesting methodology.  There's no magic pill here (although if there were - I'd take the Red Pill).  This is simply a new way to approach the important topic of talking business instead of copiers, real estate or advertising (or whatever it is that you sell). 

Before I get into it, let me elaborate on that last sentence.  Let's say you sell copiers.  I guarantee you that most customers are expecting you to walk into their office and start asking questions about how their business makes copies.  They might be ready for a brief question, like "Before we get started, can you tell me a little bit about your business?"  What a horrible question.  You want to know EVERYTHING about them.  In fact, the more you know, the more opportunity you'll uncover.  If you ever ask this question, I'm going to track you down.  In other words, they're expecting questions like:  How many copies do you think you make per month?  Do you have a support agreement with your existing vendor?  What kind of equipment do you have?  Are you happy with it? - These are important questions, but not nearly as important as really understanding your customer's business issues.  Everyone needs to know those kinds of things, but this doesn't demonstrate that you're really concerned about their business, nor is it compelling.  Guess what is going to happen?  You'll be lumped-in to the same category as your competitors (or simply won't get anywhere).  If you're lumped in, it's a good chance your customer will think your product/service is the same as everyone else.  If they think that, there's only one thing that's going to differentiate you:  price.  See how bad that sucks?

Here's a way to start thinking like your customer, instead of a copier salesperson (or whatever you sell):
  1. Start with asking yourself, "What does this organization do, and what does their industry care about?"  This should lead you to categorizing the business.  For example, let's say they're a Realtor (it doesn't really matter here).  What do Realtor's do?  They sell houses or buildings.  What do Realtors care about (besides making money -that's too general)?  With a bit of introspection, you'll get to the meat of the matter (write it down).  Realtors care about: 1) The market;  2) How fast potential buyers can reach them; 3) How fast they move properties in and out of their sell sheet;  4) Connecting sellers and buyers.  You get it.
  2. Now, take each of these "most important things" and think about the impact those things have on their business.  Ask yourself the "opposite-style question."  Something like this:  "What happens when they don't have a good handle on the market?"  "What happens if potential buyers have trouble reaching them?"  "What if properties don't get quickly moved in and out of their sell sheet?"  Answers to these questions might have multiple levels, but eventually they'll reach one of the following items:  profit, image, productivity/efficiency, safety/security.  When you get there - you're ready for step 3.
  3. Think about what your product/service does that can help the business out in these specific areas.  For example, if your copier creates images that are unbelievable - this might help the realtor send a better image to prospective customers and impact those questions above.  You get it right?
  4. Now, all you have to do, is start speaking this way in front of the customer and asking these type of questions rather than the other ones.  In no time, you'll be selling more - 100% true.

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