Asking More Questions – Why?


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Surprisingly, I often hear the following observation from Great Demo! Workshop alumni:  “Some of our sales people are concerned when we start asking questions about customers’ Critical Business Issue vs. pains, Problems and Reasons. They say we are digging too deep with questions for each opportunity…”
Keep asking – it’s the right thing to do..!   Here are two reasons why:
(1)    No Decision and
(2)    Not The Real Issue
No Decision:  One of the major reasons why sales opportunities result in a “No Decision” is that the customer agrees they have a problem, but don’t see it as critical.  They are willing to live with and stay with the status quo.  Here’s what can happen in these cases:
Customer says, “Yes, we are using Excel and we hate it – takes way too long and has far too many manual steps, plus errors creep in all the time…” 
Traditional Sales Team Response:  “Great, let us show you a terrific solution…” 
The customer sees a demo and says it looks great.  Customer does a POC and says it worked fine.  But the opportunity never closes.  Why?  Because in many cases, the customer is comfortable with the Excel Hell they know – and making a change is actually harder for them, from their perspective, so they stay with the current Excel environment.  It is only when something really critical is sufficiently impacted that they will make a change.  Otherwise, this sales opportunity is a candidate for No Decision.
Not the Real Issue:  When doing Discovery, you might compare the way you ask question with the way a doctor asks questions.  Many times a patient will describe certain symptoms and pains, but they are only indicators and are not necessarily the real, core issue.
For example, a patient could say, “I have a headache…”  For the doctor to accurately make a diagnosis and offer a prescription, the doctor needs to ask many more questions to determine the cause for the headache.   That symptom could be part of a cold or flu; it could be the result of an injury from being hit in the head; it could be a brain tumor (hope not!); it could be stress; it could just be a hangover.  The doctor needs to ask more questions to uncover enough information to make an accurate diagnosis.
Note that simply prescribing aspirin for the headache pain may not be the right solution for many of the cases above; the correct prescription will depend on accurate diagnosis of the real problem…! 
The same idea is also true in business – the symptoms (Problems/Reasons) generally have an underlying (and more important) Critical Business Issue.  Addressing the customer’s stated Problems may be insufficient to address the underlying Critical Business Issue. 

So, keep asking those questions…!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Peter Cohan
Have you ever seen a bad software demonstration? Peter Cohan is the founder and principal of Great Demo!, focused on helping software organizations improve the success rates of their demos. He authored Great Demo! - how to prepare and deliver surprisingly compelling software demonstrations. Peter has experience as an individual contributor, manager and senior management in marketing, sales, and business development. He has also been, and continues to be, a customer.


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