When meeting with a prospect for the first time, there is often a crossroad that a salesperson will encounter: Should I talk to my prospect about my product/service (the easy path) or should I ask well thought out questions about the areas of need this buyer has in his/her business, and then discuss the capabilities we can provide to help them address those needs (the hard path)? Although the answer is easy, the temptation to take the wrong path is significant.

Where we see salespeople having trouble is in the execution. What bad things can happen to us if we take the wrong fork in the road?

  • The prospect views us as just another salesperson, pushing a product.
  • The sell cycle drags on forever because the prospect can’t make a decision about which alternative is better…or they can based on price!
  • The prospect makes a ‘No Decision’ decision because it is better for them to stay with the known versus taking the risk of spending money on something they don’t see as a ‘solution’.
  • If we are ‘below the power-line’, we stay there because one of our competitors has done a better job of understanding the business issues that they can help the prospect solve and they will get introduced to the ‘above the power-line’ buyer.


To avoid these problems salespeople should be well versed in asking questions with the objectives of:

  1. Understanding the Critical Business Issue (CBI) impacting the prospect. The CBI must be of high importance to the buyer, quantifiable, and something they say they must address.
  2. Diagnosing the causes behind the Critical Business Issue (both the ones the prospect is aware of and others that we believe could be causing the Issue). With this understanding, salespeople should now propose/suggest the Business Capabilities that your products/services can provide to the prospect to help them address the causes. This discussion should be much like a doctor diagnosing the ills of their patient.
  3. Confirming with your prospect your now mutual understanding of their CBI and its causes, and, importantly, the Business Capabilities he/she needs to resolve that CBI.

Countless research studies have shown that people must diligently practice and apply new concepts over a twenty-one day period to have success with change. To ensure that you will always, and naturally, take the path you want when you encounter your personal crossroads, follow the three steps above. And get there by being prepared, practicing, and focusing on developing the needs of your buyers!