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Asking The Right Questions

by David Brock on October 3rd, 2010

A few weeks ago, I returned from a long trip.  I wasn’t feeling terrific, but chalked it up to jet lag and exhaustion.  After a few days, things started getting worse.  I was feeling very bad, pains in places I didn’t think I should be having pains.  I was in agony, so I started searching the web.  Went to the best medical sites, typed in my questions and symptoms, read the responses.  Googled my symptoms, read the responses.  I was amazed at the depth of information I was getting from the web. 

All the answers converged on a probable diagnosis, I rapidly came to the conclusion, based on the progression of my disease, that I probably had 4-6 weeks to live.  To say the least, I found the news a little disconcerting.  I started to put my affairs in order.  I sat my wife down to review the diagnosis and to help her start planning for the future.  She listened attentively and was very sensitive.  She asked me about the diagnosis, I told her it was the result of  all the best minds in social media.  She nodded patiently and suggested another opinion.  I told her it was a waste of time and what was soon to be, her money.  She said she would feel much better if I went to a doctor.  (She really hasn’t bought into social media yet, she barely uses her Facebook account.  She just doesn’t get it.)

I went to the doctor and gave him my diagnosis.  I told him that I had determined the problem, I knew the alternative solutions–none of which were great.  He started asking me some questions.  I got a little frustrated.  I was starting to feel time pressured, after all when you only have 4-6 weeks to live, you don’t want to waste time.  I have to admit being a little impatient with the doctor.  I told him to stop wasting my time with questions, I just wanted him to focus on the solution.

He must have encountered people like me before, he asked me to humor him.  He started asking me some questions.  Were you just in the Far East?  Did you eat anything unusual?  Did you stick to bottled water for everything? He went on and on.  I couldn’t comprehend why he was even asking the questions he posed.  I would have never considered them.  Then he did some tests.  He looked at the results and said Hmmmmm……  (Doctors always do that). 

Well, you know the rest.  I had misdiagnosed myself, though I think my wife was disappointed, she had plans for the insurance money.  Some shots, antibiotics, a little time and I was OK.

The problem with my diagnosis and the solution, was that I had been posing the wrong questions.  I was looking for answers based on my perception of my problems and needs.  The web and social media are wonderful.  You can get great answers to any question or problem you might pose.  The answers can be very accurate and informative.  The solutions can be very good.  Regardless of the questions, solutions were always available.

Our customers this same challenge. They realize the have a problem, they leverage social media to research solutions.  They pose questions to the community, they research and narrow their search to a few solutions. 

The problem is, are they asking the right questions? Do they know what they should be asking?  What don’t they know that they should–to make sure they are looking for the right solutions? 

Where do customers go to learn if they are asking the right questions and looking for the right solutions?  Where do customers try to learn what they don’t know that they don’t know?  Social media and the web isn’t, currently, a great place to understand this.  Great sales professionals can really help customers in this area.  Great sales professionals guide the customer on the questions they should be asking.  They help the customer to understand some of the right questions.  They help the customer look at things from a variety of different views.  They help the customer better understand their own situations so the customer can then look for the right solutions.

Are you helping your customers ask the right questions?

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4 Comments
  1. Hey Dave,

    I am glad you are going to live!
    All I could think about during your article was the TV series House.
    Patients come in all the time “knowing” what they have and ask for a certain mix of meds. You can be glad you didn’t meet him, he would have had you feeling pretty stupid (or scared you into believing it was true) 😉

    //Daniel

  2. Dave,

    Interesting that a sales person can even draw a sales lesson from being sick.-;)

    A major problem today is that people are just not that patient ( no pun intended). Everything has to be fast. But some things just can not be done fast. Sales, unfortunately, falls into that trap. Time is an enemy of a quota driven sales person.

    You have posed a very good problem, but I am not sure if there is a solution.

    • Jay, my experience is that preparing, asking the right questions, probing, creating value are always bot the most effective and efficient. Too many don’t do this–in the name of impatience and speed, yet they spend a lot of time doing wasted work, wasting the customer’s time, and producing no results. Time and speed are not an excuse.

      I don’t view time as the enemy of quota driven sales people. The ineffective and inefficient use of that time is the enemy of quota driving sales people.

      Thanks for the comment.

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