One of the surest ways to remain in control of a persuasion situation is to provide your target with a moment in which he scratches his head and says, “That’s an intriguing idea. I’ve never thought of it like that.”
All of a sudden, you’re adding value to the conversation. You’re enabling someone to learn something he didn’t know before speaking with you. This is a major component of persuasion success. So practice engineering those “a-ha” moments with a series of “what if” questions. This type of inquiry allows you and your target to suspend reality and consider the possibilities.
B2B questions might include:
- What if you expanded internationally?
- What if you had lower volume, but higher profitability?
- What if your salespeople were relieved of their administrative duties?
- What if you reduced your advertising budget and increased your sales force?
B2C questions might include:
- What if you could have the new model, and not see any increase in your monthly payment?
- What if we came to you, and you never had to leave your home or office to do business with us?
- What if we could assure you that you would always have someone to call if you need assistance?
It’s easy to come up with “what if” questions, based on the circumstances surrounding your target. Such thought-provoking inquiries challenge a buyer’s conventional wisdom. If you can identify sacred cows and change the way someone thinks about them, both of you may be leading those cows to the slaughter. (And that’s a good thing.) There’s no need to be rude or unreasonably abrupt, but don’t be afraid to take a risk and challenge convention.
After the “what if” questions, the next-best way to challenge convention is to simply ask, “Why?” Why does your target distribute products the way it does? Why is customer feedback considered so important – or, conversely, not at all? Why are sales efforts concentrated only in certain areas?
Help provide moments of clarity — and then watch your persuasion success factor increase.