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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Be Prepared, But ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ As the Story Unfolds


I loved Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid, specifically the sports-themed set. If you haven’t read or experienced one, it goes something like this… Your football team is in the regional championship game. Chapter One describes the build up to the game, and the summary of the 1st Quarter. Your team is already down by 10 points, and it’s 4th Down and 1 yard to go on the opponent’s 20-yard line. Do you kick the field goal, or go for it with a run up the middle? You get to decide, and the book instructs you which page to turn to based on your decision. It was like video games before video games!

It’s the only genre I loved… something about controlling my own destiny, having a choice, and following the story wherever it may go was thrilling to me. My advice to you is to treat every Hourglass Needs Analysis just like a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Go into the conversation with as many of the chapters, and as much of the story line, written as possible. Your research on the business, the industry, and the market should give you a great list of prepared questions that will allow you to Establish Rapport, Identify Needs, Gain an Assignment, Analyze the Opportunity, and Contract Next Steps.

But don’t be so focused on your prepared list of questions that you miss the opportunity for ADVENTURE. Following these three simple tips will help you make the right choices after each “chapter” (each answer you get from the prospect):

  1. Do much more listening than talking. It’s one of the oldest clichés on the books, but you have two ears and one mouth for a reason, use them as proportioned!
  2. After every client answer, make it a goal to ask a follow up question that is not on your prepared list. The next question may come to you naturally.  If not, try one of these… “Why is that?” or “Can you expand on that?”
  3. Don’t ignore the breadcrumbs – there are lots of hidden chapters in every story. I recently played the part of Regional Bank President in a sales training role play. When I mentioned that we were “opening new branches next year,” only half the teams asked “How many new branches?”  

The choice is yours. You can lead your prospect through a well-written but very rigid book, or you can take the more exciting approach and team up with the client to “Choose Your Own Adventure.”  Have some fun with it — you never know where the story may go!

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Topics: Needs Analysis Sales