A Question That Caused a Riot

A Controversial Question

I asked this question during a sales training session: "How do your products help your customers achieve their dreams?"

One-third of the class looked at me as if I had lost my mind. Ed, their self-appointed spokesperson said, "Mike, that's a stupid question. Dreams are for little kids. We sell products for grown-ups. Is this a real sales training class, or what?"

The room was silent for five seconds. Sally, another classmate, stood up. She said, "When I walk into my favorite dress shop, I have dreams. Ed, when you walk into your favorite donut shop, a big smile comes across your face. You obviously have dreams. Your waistline shows it."

The Riot

Ed called Sally a name. Sally's best friend, Judy, called Ed a worse name. Suddenly, everyone was standing up, loudly voicing their opinions. Some opinions were in response to my question. Other opinions were about the parentage of some of the classmates. All this over a simple question: "How do your products help your customers achieve their dreams?"

In the midst of the chaos, I began singing our National Anthem. Everyone stopped shouting. They sang along with me. Some sang the melody, while others sang harmony. We discovered that we made a pretty good chorus. At the end of the anthem, we all clapped and cheered. Apologies were exchanged. Everyone had released some tension. We were all together again as a class of eager lifetime learners.

The Answer

Every classmate had to admit that we all have dreams. We buy products we think will help us achieve those dreams.

My next question was, "What if we ask about the buyer's dreams? What if we position our products as tools to help the buyers achieve their dreams?"

Although no one had done it before, everyone in the class agreed that it was OK to ask the buyer about their dreams. It was equally OK to offer our products as tools for achievement.

Employing that principle became the homework assignment: try asking buyers about their dreams, and then offer our products as ways to achieve those dreams.

The Results

A week later, I met with the class again. I asked how their new sales strategy was working. Here's what we learned:

  1. After establishing rapport, the buyer was receptive to questions about their dreams and aspirations.
  2. The sales conversations were richer, because the conversations were about topics the buyer cared about.
  3. When our products were offered as tools to achieve the buyer's dreams, we closed more sales in a shorter time.

Try It Yourself

Make a list of the different ways your products can help buyers achieve their dreams. Use your list to make questions you'll use in your next meeting with a prospect.

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