Can we learn something from the business world?
In 1987 Robert B Miller and Stephen E Heiman published a book that turned the traditional sales-pitch approach to selling on its head. Their new edition, The new conceptual selling: The most effective and proven method for face-to-face sales planning, changes the way sales personnel interact with customers and clients.
One sales person sums things up in this statement –
“I realized that I was selling upside down by selling our suite of products before understanding the client’s needs. I have now changed my approach to a consultative one; understanding the needs and then delivering the solutions.” Miller Heiman 2010
So, what can we learn from this?
Do you work from the basis of – build it and they will come? Unfortunately, this paradigm has well and truly passed its use-by date. The ‘business’ you are in now is to provide a solution to the teachers’ or students’ problems.
To achieve this you need to be having a conversation by asking specific questions. The first phase is getting information; learning about the problem or need the teacher or student is experiencing. The second phase is giving information; describing and/or demonstrating your service, but only in relation to the the need or problem. (One size fits all is no longer the norm.) The third phase is getting commitment; resolving any uncertainities or removing any barriers that might prevent the teacher or student fully engaging in the use of your services, e.g. your accessibility, opening hours.
At any given moment you understand exactly where you stand, exactly where the teacher or student is coming from and exactly what still needs to be done to progress things along.
Miller and Heiman refer to three thought processes that help an individual to make a decision.
- Understand – Cognition thinking
- Generate – Divergent thinking
- Select best – Convergent thinking
Miller, Robert B & Heiman, Stephen E 2005, The new conceptual selling: the most effective and proven method for face-to-face sales planning, Business Plus, New York, pp. 37 – 42.
Cognition thinking utilises the questioning technique of 5 W’s and How (What, When, Where, Why, Who and How) to work out where you are in the first phase.
Divergent thinking is a creative and freewheeling process that explores options, possibilities and choices. Something like the brainstorming technique but with a focus on considering “How about…”, “We could…”, “What if…”, “Let’s consider…”
Convergent thinking focuses on finding the solution to zero in on an answer to the problem or need. It might sound like this: “We should…The logical choice….It’s obvious.”
Most of your time needs to be spent on the cognition thinking and listening before moving onto divergent thinking. Otherwise you could find yourself agonising over the solution in the last phase. If this happens, then go back to asking specific questions to really find out what the teacher or student needs.
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