Don’t Go Shopping For More Of The Same

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Last week I was working the Coho Data booth at VMworld, and I want to thank everyone who made our first year there a huge success! The booth was extremely busy in a very good way. I never had a chance to attend any of the sessions. That is okay though, because the mission was to get people’s attention and that is what we certainly did.

This week I want to address something that I have noticed not only at VMworld, but at all of the trade show or technology events that I have attended or worked at in recent years. At each of these events more than once I am approached by someone who wants to learn more about the solution that I am representing as a possible replacement for their current solution, but they want to learn through the filter of knowledge that they have for their current solution. Sometimes these inquiring customers might become frustrated with the answers that they are given, not because they are given bad answers but because the answers cannot pass through that knowledge filter.

The problem boils down to the quality of the questions being asked. If you ask questions that are meant to find a match with what you already know, then you are asking the wrong questions. Here are a few examples:

  • Does your solution use the same algorithm that my current solution does?
  • Does this solution support the same types of connections that my current solution does?
  • Will I be able to use all of the scripts that I developed for my current solution?

By themselves any one of these questions is okay. The problem arises when all of the questions that are asked are meant to find a product that will seamlessly replace your current solution. If what you need is more of your current solution, then by all means save yourself the time and energy and just buy more of your current solution. It obviously fits your needs.

But when you say “I’m looking to replace my current solution.” that means for some reason your current solution does not fit your needs. Forget how your current solution works, because it obviously is not working! You need to adjust your approach at this point to discover what new solutions do address your needs. You do this by asking questions that provoke more information to be shared. Not matching questions, because those questions by their very nature limit the amount of information that will be shared to a yes or no answer. You have either found a match, or you have have not. What you need are open-ended questions that promote information transfer.

The good news is that it is very easy to change a matching question into an open-ended question. You just need to use the word “how” and remove any comparison statements from the questions. Using our original three matching questions here are the revised open-ended versions:

  • How does the algorithm used by your solution work?
  • How many and what kinds of connections does your solution support?
  • How can I script common tasks for automating your solution with?

These questions get the sales person talking, and may lead to more in depth conversations with the engineers of a product. These questions work because they will help you disqualify solutions that are incompatible with your needs, while at the same time exposing you to new possibilities for meeting your needs with a better solution. All it takes is being true to your original goal of finding a solution while at the same time removing that bias that you unintentionally acquired from your current solution.

The next time that you are searching for a new IT solution, be sure to use this helpful tip to form your purchasing questions with. IT professionals are always learning new ways for completing standard tasks and delivering common services, and they do that by being open from the start to new methodologies and technologies. Be sure that the questions that you are asking are empowering that kind of openness to learn, and not reinforcing a bias for how things have always been done.

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