Many years ago, I had a sales call with someone who was referred to me to join the Strategic Coach Program. I got on the call with him, and he told me that the person who referred him said such good things about me but didn’t really tell him what the Program was about. He asked if he could spend a few minutes learning how the Program actually works.
I said to him, “Before I tell you about Strategic Coach, I’d like to ask you a question: If we were having this discussion three years from today, and you were to look back over those three years to today, what has to have happened, both personally and professionally, for you to feel happy about your progress?”
And then I didn’t say anything more. I just let the question sit there. And after a long pause, he said, “Well, I’ll tell you, Dan” and proceeded to talk to me about his past and what his hopes were for the future. He talked for 23 minutes straight and then said, “Well, Dan, your program sounds really good. So let me know how to sign up for it.”
About them, not you.
When I tell this story, it always gets a big laugh at the end. After all, I didn’t say a word to him about the Program. But, ultimately, by asking him this question and listening to his answer, I told him everything he needed to know: that the Program was about him and not about me.
People don’t want answers. They want powerful questions.
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That’s exactly what most people want to know when they’re buying something: Is this whole experience going to be about you, the salesperson, or is it going to be about me, the customer? By keeping my mouth shut for 23 minutes, I let him know that the whole purpose and focus of the Strategic Coach Program was going to be about him and the things that were most important in his life.
Remember that people don’t really want answers. They want powerful questions that allow them to discover their own answers.
It’s all about relationship.
My discussion with the prospective client also established that when we involve ourselves in any kind of transaction in the marketplace, before we buy a product or a service or an experience, the first thing we actually buy is a relationship. And what he was doing when he got on the line with me, from the moment I started talking, was evaluating: Is this a relationship I’m actually going to buy?
Because I asked an open-ended question that wasn’t for my benefit but was actually for his, he could make a very good judgment about whether he wanted to have a relationship with me personally and whether he wanted to have a relationship with Strategic Coach.
We call this question The R-Factor Question (also known as The Dan Sullivan Question) because the relationship aspect is key. It’s a great way to establish whether someone trusts you enough to want a relationship with you and tells you right away whether you can move forward with this person. I recommend asking this question not only in a sales situation, but in any setting where people are interested in building a bigger and better future for themselves.
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