April 2016 Coaches Corner
Using the Socratic Method in Selling
It's not often I get to discuss classic thinkers in an article about ExpertPreneur® businesses.
As you may already know, Socrates was a classical Greek philosopher. He is best known as one of the founders of Western philosophy and a great contributor to the field of ethics. A true mover and shaker of his time.
However, it's his invention and exploration of the “Socratic Method” that directly impacts the success of our businesses today.
Have you ever been in a sales situation and come up against a prospect who holds a very strong belief contrary to your own? Perhaps they believe coaches, authors, speakers, and consultants are bogus and can't really help anyone. A very challenging mindset if you are looking to make a sale.
While, generally, I wouldn't recommend dealing with a prospect who fundamentally doesn't believe in the value of your service… you will find yourself facing opposing opinions of varying degrees throughout your career. Knowing how to tackle them properly is imperative to your success.
When a person has a strong belief, it's nearly impossible to get them to see your side by just challenging them right away. Just think about heated political discussions at family gatherings. Telling people flatly they are wrong and you are right has never changed anyone's mind.
So, how can you deal with them gracefully and get them to see your side?
That's where Socrates' brilliance comes into play. In this month's sales strategy piece, I'm sharing the ins and outs of the Socratic Method, and how you can apply it to your sales presentations to get better results than ever before.
I'll show you the foundation of his method and why it can reach even the most stubborn people…
The shocking places it is used every day that you probably never noticed…
And how you can use it to improve your chances of closing a sale…
What is So Special?
If you've never heard of this method, it may seem crazy that I'm bringing it up suddenly. After all, Socrates passed away long ago.
The thing is, the Socratic Method is actually the foundation of a very common way of proving the truth of a statement – which is often called the scientific method.
The difference is, the Socratic Method is used to discuss concepts that don't necessarily have concrete definitions, much like the belief about whether coaching has value or not.
The Socratic Method takes a “negative” approach to breaking down an argument. This does not mean that it's rude or nasty in any way. It's actually quite the contrary – it takes a belief, and slowly strips away it's supporting statements one-by-one by introducing contrarian concepts and asking open questions.
By the end of the conversation, there should be ample room for doubt about the original belief, opening up an opportunity for you to share your position (and, eventually, your product).
For example, let's say you are giving a presentation about your time management system, and you're making the argument that procrastination stems from perfectionism. This may be a hard pill for your audience to swallow, because people generally believe procrastination stems from laziness.
So, to address this issue, instead of just bringing up your side and defending it, you would bring up their side first. “Many people believe others procrastinate because they are lazy.”
Next, you would bring up a point about laziness. Say, for example, “people are lazy because they don't feel like doing anything.”
Then you would ask open-ended questions like, “Do you generally feel like just sitting around all day? Do you have ambitions in your life? Do you find it difficult to commit to a task because you don't know what steps you should take, so you put it off?” And so on, and so forth.
Ultimately, you would reach the point where you've gotten the audience to understand laziness as a function of uncertainty. And then uncertainty being a function of perfectionism, because we want everything to happen exactly right the first time we do it, and tend to avoid things if we can't do that.
By just having that discussion, and getting your audience to come to that conclusion with you, you have now opened up their minds to the possibility that this might be true. And then when you discuss how perfectionism can be dealt with and your strategies for doing so, suddenly they see a light at the end of the tunnel for their problem.
Potentially bringing even the staunchest contrarian to your side amicably and peacefully.
Does Anyone Else Do This?
Now that you are aware of the Socratic Method, can you think of times where it might have been used on you? I can tell you times where it's not often used – family arguments, political debates, and other severely personal discussions.
In an argument between two emotionally charged sides, rarely does either party use a rational approach to get the other person to agree. There's a lot of talking about why they are right, refusing to listen to the other side, and it usually ends up in a stalemate, or worse.
However, if even one person in that argument were to remain level-headed enough to use the Socratic Method, the whole discussion could turn on its head. And a very common place you see this used is in the doctor's office.
No matter what field a medical professional is in, they will find themselves in a situation where they have to tell a patient about the reality of a medical condition. Often times that is met with a refusal to accept or see what the doctor is saying.
The doctor could just get frustrated and tell the patient they're wrong. That she knows better and the patient just needs to “deal with it.”
However, that would not only be insensitive; she would probably lose the patient forever.
The doctor has to go into the conversation from the patient's perspective. Getting them to talk about how they feel about their condition, then slowly bringing up questions to get them to consider that something might be amiss.
Eventually, the patient will want to know more and ask questions themselves. Ultimately arriving at the conclusion the doctor had already discovered. This way, there was very little resistance.
I had a friend who was severely overweight and would refuse to go see a doctor. Deep down, he knew he had a problem. However, he would never admit it to anyone, least of all himself, and going to the doctor was out of the question.
His wife was distressed about his health and longevity and she would argue with him about it, largely to no avail. All she wanted was for him to see a professional.
After trying every angle in the book, she eventually had a discussion with him using the Socratic Method. She started by bringing up his arguing points and asking questions around them. Asking how he felt, how he's performing in activities he loves to do such as sports and competitions, and so on.
Then she got into more difficult topics, asking him about how long it's been since he's had seemingly unrelated medical concerns checked. Having him discuss family history with obesity, heart health, etc… She got him talking about other people who have the same problem and how they've suffered from it.
Once the conversation had gone on long enough, she asked him how he thought he fared, considering everything else. And let me tell you something… having it all spelled out in front of him by him shook him up and got him to the doctor.
And now he's on track to a complete life transformation.
How Can You Do This?
Hopefully, you will be in many situations where you are selling your product. Whether dealing with an individual or a large group, you will most likely face preconceived notions about many things. Not the least of which is a product you're trying to sell, I'm sure.
It's up to you to design your presentation so you raise those objections right off the bat and slowly strip them away. And the only way to do that is to do the appropriate prospect research beforehand, so you know what to expect.
This means conducting surveys, paying attention to conversations in social media, or the comments section of your blog. Joining communities where your prospects hang out and listening to their problems, frustrations, and fears, as well as hopes, dreams, and aspirations.
The fact of the matter is, many people know what they want or the problem they want to solve. However, they don't believe they can achieve it. They may think ill of people who could help them, or, have a negative image about getting help in general.
In my friends case, his entire family lived off of medications to solve the effects of their unhealthy lifestyles. No doctor or family member had ever effectively stepped in to show how changing their day-to-day activities could improve their lives.
Similarly, like my time management example, people may have a warped notion of the source of a problem like procrastination, or like my friend who was overweight, simply avoid facing reality all together and putting forward a series of objections to justify why they aren’t doing anything about the problem.
Similarly, going into a sales presentation, you need to know where these objections exist. That way you can design your piece to carefully strip them down until the audience is able to look at things in a new light. Then you show them how you can help them achieve their transformation.
This will improve your conversions immensely, allowing you to help more people than ever before. Fulfilling your destiny as an ExpertPreneur®.
It's Not Just About Sales
You see, the Socratic Method isn't just a way to convince everyone you're right, or to make a huge sum of money. Though it's certainly an effective way to do so.
Deep down, it's a way to help people who have trouble accepting they need it, or are afraid of the stigma attached to getting help. Or don't even know why they have the problems they have.
It gives you a way to help them see how much their lives could change by opening up their minds and giving your business a chance. Ultimately, their lives will improve greatly from it.
So, take the time to really get to know the objections and arguments your prospects have, and find a way to incorporate the Socratic Method to diffuse them. It will get you more clients, a better business, and allow you to help more people than ever before.
Isn't that your dream as an ExpertPreneur®?