I am a big fan of asking questions because I believe questions create infinite possibilities. If I were to make a statement, you would have two choices. You can either agree with what I say or disagree with what I say. Instead, if I asked you a question, you could arrive at an answer based on your personal notions and experiences. This is why I keep asking questions in different scenarios. Every chapter of this book is asking and addressing a question. And, interestingly enough, it was a set of questions that gave birth to this book.
In 2016, I saw a video called “The 3 Most Important Questions to Ask Yourself.” In the video, Vishen Lakhiani (CEO and founder of Mindvalley) asks his listeners to answer three questions and he gave them 90 seconds for each answer. He asked us to write down the answers without thinking too much. The questions were as follows: What would I like to experience if time and money were not in question? What are the various ways I would want to grow? What are the ways I would want to contribute to this world? I did this exercise and kept the answer sheet in a drawer in my study.
For the third question about the ways in which I would want to contribute to the world, I answered, “Publishing a book” among my other dreams. When I wrote these words, the seed of becoming a published author was sown in my mind. And for this realisation, I am deeply grateful to Vishen Lakhiani. While the seed was sown in 2016 through this wonderful exercise, the growth of the seed is attributed to another experience. The credit for the growth goes to a life-changing book.
Have you ever come across a book that has made such a profound impact on your life that you turn to it whenever you seek guidance? For me, that book is The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. This book helped me to direct my energies in the right direction by positing this one, beautiful and powerful question: What is the one thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else is easier or necessary? Such an impactful question, isn’t it? After reading this book, I developed the habit of asking this one thing question in many aspects of my life.
Reflecting upon these two significant experiences, I am reminded of this quote by Neale Donald Walsch: “I tell you this: There is no coincidence, and nothing happens by accident. Each event and adventure is called to your Self by your Self in order that you might create and experience who you really are.” Vishen Lakhiani’s video and the book, The One Thing, came into my life for a reason.
While the former’s wonderful questions sowed the seed, the book provided the required manure for its growth. What was left was watering the seed and that happened over a meal. One morning, over breakfast with my wife, a thought occurred to me. What if someone asked me, “If you were to share only one simple thing that has contributed the most to your success in sales, what would that be?”
Interestingly, the answer came to me faster than I had expected and it was Use Case Selling! This unexpected answer brought a smile to my lips and I decided to write a book because a book offers an amazing opportunity to connect with an infinite classroom.
Daniel Pink, the author of To Sell Is Human, says, “We’re all in sales now,” and I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. I have been successfully selling for many years now. On the business front, I have sold in 23 countries across North America, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe over the last twenty-plus years. In my personal life, I continue to sell as a son, husband, father, friend and employee. So, as you can see, my experience in sales goes back nearly two decades but the significant turning point came just a few years ago. It was only in 2015 that I discovered that one approach to sales, which would open huge windows of possibilities for me, both professionally and personally. And that approach is Use Case Selling!
In May 2015, I joined a start-up that was planning a major pivot. Till then, this company was offering managed services to enhance user experience and personalisation to the e-commerce and travel industry. They were aiming at a massive change that would involve the following new items:
• A new industry vertical called financial services (banks, insurance, securities, mutual funds)
• A new, subscription-based revenue model that takes the subscription fees in advance as opposed to the managed services model
• A new product offering in the form of a marketing automation platform
At this point in our journey, we had no customer references and our product was at an early stage of its development. Considering our position as a start-up and the competition we were facing from large software vendors such as Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce and IBM, this was a David and Goliath situation. To handle such a situation, I was looking for a sales strategy that would be simple, powerful and effective. And incidentally, I found this fresh line of action during a client meeting.
I had a meeting with the chief marketing officer (CMO) of a very large bank in Asia. I arrived 15 minutes early and was asked to wait in the conference room. As I waited there, many questions went through my mind. I thought, “I represent a start-up but here I am meeting executives from one of the largest banks in Asia. This is a great opportunity. How can I create value for the attendees? How can this meeting be impactful?”
Needless to say, I was both excited and nervous! In exactly 15 minutes, about six or seven sharply dressed executives entered the room. After the usual exchange of pleasantries and business cards, the discussion started. The CMO started with a short sentence that would have put me on the back foot if it hadn’t been for the power of Use Case Selling. He said, “Our company works with the best software in the world for analytics and customer experience. We have IBM, Adobe and SAS.” There are times when you can feel unspoken words and on this particular occasion, I could hear the CMO saying, “Why are you here?” His demeanour did not fluster me and I said, “May I ask you three questions?” The CMO said, “Sure!”
“Could you please tell me the number of unique visitors visiting your bank’s website every month?” “12 million,” the CMO answered. “And among these 12 million visitors, are you able to separately identify the existing customers and the ones new to the bank on your homepage?” The CMO was unprepared for this question. He looked around the room to consult with his subordinates. “No,” he answered quite dejectedly.
“And are you able to personalise the website experience for your existing customers?” At this point, the CMO’s face and tone betrayed his anger and annoyance. “When I cannot identify the existing customers on the website, how can I possibly customise their experience?” he said. Yes, I had addressed the elephant in the room. I could immediately sense certain dissatisfaction in the room with respect to the capabilities of their current software.
There was an uncomfortable silence in the room and the rest is history. The CMO’s company emerged as one of our most important clients and we often used this story as a reference for several potential clients.
Of course, as an employee of the start-up, I was elated with the results of the meeting. The sales professional in me was intrigued by the dynamics of our conversation. I’ve had several successful meetings in the past but something felt different. I gave this interaction with the CMO and his team a thorough thought.
I asked myself, “Why did this meeting go so well? What did I do differently?” My questions yielded the following answers: I had put forward a question that helped in revealing the unknown need of the client. I shared something insightful that the CMO wasn’t aware of. The language of the conversation was lucid, easy to follow and free of technical jargon. My second and third questions gave rise to anxiety and aspiration in the client. He was emotionally charged and that made him quite angry.
I smiled to myself and with a hint of pride said, “This meeting is a wonderful Use Case of how clients can be engaged effectively.” And as soon as I uttered the words “Use Case,” I felt a certain warmth and positivity. It rang a bell and excited me. It was an aha moment for me and the term “Use Case Selling” was born. Since then, it has become an integral aspect of my life. I have used Use Case Selling in multiple scenarios in both my professional and personal life.
Excerpted with permission from The Ultimate Sales Accelerator: One Surprisingly Powerful Strategy to Create Epic Sales in Business and in Life, Amit Agarwal, Penguin.