Tom had a 10 a.m. appointment with his doctor. He arrived a few
minutes early, and started looking at the stack of People, Time, and
Newsweek magazines that were on the coffee table.
Shortly thereafter he was escorted into Dr. James W. Smith’s office
for his examination.
Dr. Smith proceeded to tell Tom all about himself. Where he grew up,
where he went to college. He described his years at medical school at
NYU in New York City, and told him about how he did his internship
at UCLA Medical Center.
Then he started telling Tom about how qualified his nurses and support
staff were and about the new X-Ray machine he had just purchased
After this brief introduction, Dr. Smith fired up his laptop computer,
and commenced his 25 slide PowerPoint presentation that told Tom all
about the wonderful services that the doctor and his staff provided.
It had eye-catching graphics and charts. Great patient testimonials.
And was narrated by a famous actor.
After about 75 minutes, Dr. Smith asked Tom how he felt. He said he
was having headaches. So Dr. Smith prescribed some pills, and sent him
on his way.
What’s wrong with this story? Everything!
”Doctors Ask Questions”
Doctors don’t work this way. They ask questions.
The first thing they do is ask you to fill out a medical history form.
They want to know about your ailments, illnesses and injuries. Your family’s
medical history. Are you allergic to any drugs? Have you seen other
physicians? Who? When?
A nurse gives you tests. Blood tests. Urine analysis. Maybe an X-ray. Maybe an EKG.
Then the doctor comes in, asks you lots of questions, and begins to
examine you. He listens to your heart and lungs. Taps your knees and
elbows with a rubber mallet to check your reflexes. He looks into your
eyes and ears, and up your nose with a little flashlight.
He makes you open your mouth, pushes down your tongue with a depressor,
and makes you say AH, while he looks down your throat (and you start
Depending upon the answers to the questions and the results of the
tests, he may ask you more questions and/or run more tests to find out what’s
Or give you a prescription and send you on your way.
”Finding the Customer’s Pain”
Sales people are often trained to “Find The Customer’s Pain.” I for one
don’t like that phrase. For what do you do when you’re in pain? You go see a
And if the customer was in “pain” she would call you — or one of your
competitors — and ask you to come over because she knew that she had
a problem that needed fixing.
So if the customer doesn’t “know” she’s got a problem, how do you
discover that she’s a need for your product or service?
You do it by asking questions. (Not by talking about yourself, like Dr.
But finding out that a problem exists isn’t enough. You’ve got to
discover the financial impact or economic value of the problem. You’ve got to
get the customer to tell you how much it’s costing them because something
isn’t working properly.
”The Problem’s Financial Impact”
Last week I was working with a client — Shelly — whose company makes
shipping label software. She told me that one of her clients ships 1,000
packages per day. I asked her how many of them get shipped to the wrong
address. She said that only two are mis-labeled each day.
You would think that 0.2 percent is good, but what is the cost to the company
of those two mis-labeled packages.
There’s the cost of
*Pulling a new order from the warehouse and putting it in a box.
*Retyping the labels.
*Dealing with an unhappy customer who didn’t receive the merchandise.
*The cost of restocking, if the merchandise is returned.
*The cost of the merchandise if the package is lost.
In this case, it was costing Shelly’s client at least $100+ for each
mis-labeled package. $200/day. $1,000/week. $50,000/year.
By finding out the financial impact of the customer’s shipping problem,
Shelly had discovered a $50,000/year problem. (What’s the present value
of this over the next five years?) Now her $5,000 solution wasn’t so
expensive. In fact it paid for itself in just five weeks.
Spend more time asking great questions, and less time talking about
yourself and your company, and you’ll create more opportunities,
close more sales, and make more money.
”’Reprinted with permission from Jeffrey Mayer’s SucceedingInBusiness.com Newsletter.(Copyright, 2003, Jeffrey J. Mayer, SucceedingInBusiness.com.) To subscribe to Jeff’s free newsletter, visit:”’ http://www.SucceedingInBusiness.com