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If you think about it …

I use that phrase often when I’m coaching sales professionals.  Has “thinking” is becoming a lost art?  I mean in the 21st century, if a prospect or an existing client needs to interact with a sales professional it’s only because Google’s answer wasn’t sufficient, don’t you think?

If we’re meeting with a client or a prospect, something’s up.  Business people are so busy today they don’t take a meeting with a sales rep just to take a meeting.  Instead I think they are thinking about a purchase and would like to get additional thinking from the sales rep to either address unconsidered needs or mitigate the risk of overlooking something in their own thinking.

Let’s think about how you buy something.  Have you recently made a purchase decision online?  Or if you were at a store, did you know what you were looking for?  When was the last time you actually interacted with a sales rep?  And when that interaction occurred, why did it occur?

Today, I think business buyers prefer Do-It-Yourself buying and only choose to work with a sales rep if they can’t “DIY”.  The modern sales rep brings good thinking to the transaction – that’s what the buyer is buying, yes?  “Will it work?”  “Will it work for me?”  “Is this what other companies like mine use?”  “What gotchas haven’t I thought about?”  These are examples of what’s likely on the buyer’s mind when they take a meeting with a sales rep.

But are today’s sales reps ready?  Are we good thinkers?  Thankfully, we can continuously train our thinking skills.  Here’s a quick test from Edward de Bono in his book Lateral Thinking ©:

In a tennis tournament there are one hundred and eleven entrants.  It is a singles knockout tournament and you as secretary have to arrange the matches.  What is the minimum number of matches that would have to be arranged with this number of entrants?

Ok – Go!  How many tennis matches would you have to arrange?  What is the formula you would use to answer this question?  What is your thought process?

Well, de Bono offers us a little thought leadership about thinking “laterally”.  In fact, he describes our thinking options this way:

Vertical thinking is used to dig the same hole deeper.  Lateral thinking is used to dig a hole in a different place.

If we think about it, calculating the number of tennis matches can be done simply and quickly – if we think about the problem differently:

… to work it out one must shift attention from the winners of each match to the losers (in whom no one is usually very interested).  Since there can only be one winner there must be one hundred and ten losers.  Each loser can only lose once so there must be one hundred and ten matches.

Is that how you approached answering the question?  Or was your approach similar to mine?  I started drawing out brackets and then counting matches by bracket – before I gave up that is and just read his answer.

Edward de Bono seems to be a good thinker. And if I was buying something that required a sales rep interaction (vs. a DIY approach), if he was one of the sales reps I met with, I would very likely value his thinking.

In today’s marketplace, I think buyers think all products are alike.  It’s the sales rep that is the best thinker that makes the difference.  What do you think?

GAP

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