Monday I wrote about the power of the Why > How one-two punch. Rather than doing the conventional probing around the decision process, who is involved, what are the steps, are there steps defined or is it ad-hock, etc. Ask anyone if they are the ones to make the decision, and they’ll likely say yes, ask about Why and How the current vendor was selected, and you may find a different scenario, with additional and at times more important players that will have to be engaged to get the decision you want. But that’s just the start, you can leverage Why > How, in a more granular way to give you further insights about the buyer, their organization, and how to adjust your execution to achieve success.
First is across time. Look to the past, present and future. Looking to the past will not only tell how they do things, people don’t change dramatically. How they bought software last year or the year before, unless there is an entirely new crew, in which case exploring their past will still provide visibility to how they do things. Assuming the players have not changed, exploring the past will give you a clear picture as to their propensity to change. If they have continuously lagged the market in adopting new technologies, if they are still sitting back wait for cloud computing to be validated, you need to adjust your sales approach accordingly, at times even to the point of moving on and revisiting the opportunity in the future. At the other end are innovators and early adopters, where they are on Moore’s curve will dictate how you execute and win them as a client.
Exploring the future, especially when that exploration is through the prism of their business will also dictate execution. If they have clear objectives, aligned around elements of their business and how they look to grow it, it will make your sale easier, perhaps easier is the wrong word, more like ‘straight forward’. Assuming their plans make sense you can focus on helping them achieve them. If they have clear objectives but have chosen a less than optimal means of achieving them, then you need to first get them to consider alternatives. Why > How, will help you to get them to change course, preaching is ineffective, but a series of “Why that?”, “How will that look?” questions will help you to get them to look at things differently, and from there to look at different things.
The other plain that Why > How will help is by exploring both the individual you are speaking to, and the Why’s > How’s of their organization. This is especially important when there are multiple stakeholders or decision makers. This helps in aligning personal agendas with corporate objectives, this can help you create alignment among the players by focusing on common elements, of each of the individuals, and those of the company. Minimize differences, especially when not critical to the project, and build on overlap and common elements that you can enhance by virtue of you experience and past success.
I know there are some sales pundits out there who are afraid of the word Why, and would rather have you wait for a random event to trigger your success. I say take control of your success by asking Why > How, early and often.
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