Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Well Aimed Arrow

A few days ago a friend asked me a question that was so perfectly timed and so penetrating in it’s nature that it caused me to experience a professional epiphany.

I want to remark primarily upon the experience of being asked, and then answering this kind of question. The context was a conversation about a sales presentation in which I came away with mediocre results. The particular situation was full of potential that I simply did not maximize, and I was not sure why and I was not particularly happy about it.

My friend then asked me what I was focusing on communicating to my prospects. The exact questions was, “What were you pounding on?”

I immediately answered the question with the obvious answer, and then instantly my world did this sort of flip flop as I realized that I had totally missed the boat. I had simply done the same presentation I always did, pounding on making money and reducing stress, which is a perfect message for 98% of my audiences. In this case, however, I failed to account for some significant differences in the way this particular audience would perceive what I had to sell. In a flash, all this was revealed to me by one simple question. These people were much more interested in saving time and reducing stress, but not very interested in making more money. Most of them had that part nailed and certainly didn’t need my help. By remaining in my familiar rut, and assuming that money was the most important thing (even though I KNEW they made lots of money) I completely missed a huge opportunity.

It was such an amazing experience to realize this. It almost felt as if the world truly flipped upside down.

I thanked my friend by swearing at him and calling him a son of a b***h (maybe it’s a guy thing). He laughed because he knew that meant that his question had the intended effect. It is never pleasant to see oneself exposed for being stupid and shortsighted. It is, however, a good thing. He is still my friend, and I appreciate his courage and skill in asking me that question.
The direct lesson will be invaluable to me. The indirect lesson may prove to just as valuable. The elegance of the properly placed and well timed question and change someone’s life. What a tremendous skill to learn. It will be even better, when I learn to ask myself those kinds of questions.

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