The Sunday morning breakfast table was full of home made goodies: caramelised french toasts, chocolate filled brioche and pain brioche. Whilst eating these, the conversation was focused on what we would to in the afternoon after rugby training. And one option was starting to get a lot of the kids excited: going to a massive swimming pool with loads of slides and games. However, there was some work to do that hadn’t been done on Saturday. The conversation went a little bit like this:
“The pool sounds like a possibility but you haven’t done your homework yet., notably the French exam. We need to have this done.”
“Ok, what if I do it then, what will happen? Will we go to the swimming pool?”
What absolutely struck me in the way my 7 years old boy handled the situation was that it was a great sales technique he naturally applied. There was something he wanted. There was a requirement, let’s call it a possible hurdle. What did he do? Simple: he did bring the future forward. Let me explain.
In a sales context, we are often asked to do some testing, some validation that the solution works. A “try before you buy”. By getting head first into this request from a prospect, we possibly put our happy ears on (great, he want to see us in action!) and we forget to do further qualification by asking more questions. Essentially, we forget to ask them what will happen if the validation is successful and what will happen if it is a successful. That’s what I call “bring the future forward”. A good sales job is made by asking a lot of questions that, in this context, can be divided in three main areas:
1- What will be a successful test? It’s great they want to get some validation. But why do they want to do so? It could be obvious or implied but getting complete clarification can help and lead to uncover some more facts. And what need to be included at the end of this test to make it successful. What does the prospect want to see in it?
2- Who needs to be involved? Is the person asking the validation the only person who is going to look into the results? Quite likely not. So who should be included in judging the outcome of this test? Also, the IT person will be interested by something else than the marketing or the finance person. Knowing who will be looking at the results after the test helps to define before what all these people want to see in it to deem the test a success (as per 1- above).
3- What happens if validation is a success? That’s the bit where we bring the future forward. If this validation proof is successful, i.e. if it hits all the points that have been defined above, then what happens? Will they request more validation? What? Or if it’s final, what is the process to pursue to get to a purchase order? What are the steps that have been followed in the past?
It might sound a lot of question but they are fair. Selling is about two people / companies involved in a process that they potentially will both gain from (less pain on one hand / revenue on the other). It is not a one sided process. And the validation stage will require some effort. It is therefore fair to understand to ask more questions. Both parties will gain from getting a clear future.
If it is natural from a kid, eager to go to the swimming pool, to bring the future forward, it should be natural for adults in a sales context to do the same. Being keen to please prospects by diving head first in a test / trial and not asking questions that we are fully entitled to ask can be very counter productive. All these questions will have to be asked after this validation. Knowing their answers even before starting the test will help
spend more afternoon in the swimming pool be more efficient and increase the chances to get the order.