Best way to get people thinking? - 5th April 2018

Have you ever listened to a presentation of some sort and realised at the end that you cannot remember a single bit of what was said? I know I have. The words were in a language you understood. How can you remember nothing?

It’s because your brain wasn’t engaged in what was being said. You heard the words, but you weren’t listening because you were thinking about something else. Imagine, at the end of that presentation, if you’d been asked to make a decision about something based on what had just been said. I can almost guarantee that you would have been unable or unwilling to do so.

You probably said something like, ‘That’s a very good question, but there’s lots to consider. Can I come back to you later?’ Phew, you got away with it and the speaker need never know you weren’t listening.

This is what happens in sales conversations when the salesperson spends too much time talking. They may have a beautifully crafted pitch about the benefits of their product; they may tell lots of stories about happy clients; they may paint pictures of the buyer’s life after they’ve made the purchase. But, unless the salesperson is an extraordinarily wonderful raconteur, the buyer will not really be listening. They will not be thinking about the content. The same is true when salespeople only ask simple and obvious questions. A client can answer easily without needing to think.

If you want someone to make a decision then they have to be thinking. The best way to get people thinking is to ask them great questions, interesting questions, difficult questions. When they half answer a question, probe, dig, provoke them so you can find out more. When you challenge them, they engage their brain so that they digest what’s being said rather than just hearing it. Your best chance of challenging them is getting them to talk rather than hoping they’ll listen.