On the advice of a client, I’ve started reading Peter Schutz’s The Driving Force: Getting Extraordinary Results with Ordinary People. Schutz was the CEO responsible for turning Porsche around.
I’ve just started reading the book and wanted to share one of the most powerful management questions I’ve come across in years. Schutz tells the story of his early days at Porsche. Every Monday, 40 top managers of all disciplines get together for lunch. Schutz found the conversations taking place there to be both boring and mundane. Unable to stop himself, he blurted out:
Tell me, what is happening at Porsche today that is so exciting that you can hardly wait to run and tell our customers and dealers about it?
What a powerful question! What are you excited about?
Now switch them, so if you if the pattern of your thumb and fingers is left, right, left, right, etc. you change to right, left, right, left, etc. Keep them like this for at least 30 seconds.
How did if feel? My bet is it felt pretty awkward, initially but the longer your fingers were in the new position the more normal it felt. If you practiced this exercise a couple of times, you’d be able to go with either configuration without a thought.
This is a typical exercise used to demonstrate that change, initially, feels out of place, and relatively quickly becomes normal.
I write a lot about focusing on the results your customers desire and on asking the difficult questions that provoke the awareness of gaps in performance that you may be able to fill. Recently I was sharing this approach – what we call Diagnostic Protocol – with a client.
The CEO shared with me that while he thought the questions we were developing were excellent, asking them in conversation felt quite awkward – even to him. His feeling is quite normal, and it’s the reason that many sales teams fully capable of becoming Demand Creators fail to do so and remain Commoditizers or Peddlers.
There are two types of questions you can ask in a sales interaction:
- Questions that your customer/prospect readily knows the answer to – these questions are designed to educate the salesperson and as such create no value whatsoever in the sales process and position you as a Peddler.
- Questions that force your customer/prospect to think and consider because they don’t know the answer – these questions are designed to educate the customer/prospect (as well as the salesperson) and as such are the only types of questions that can create any value and separate your from the Peddlers and Commoditizers.
The challenge with this second type of question is:
- They can make the customer uncomfortable
- They require the salesperson to be more prepared
- They’re different than the typical questions most salespeople ask, so it can feel awkward
However, just like changes to which hand is on top, the more frequently you ask these types of questions the more comfortable and valuable you will be.