Hand Over that Wallet!

Here’s a Fable Friday story for you about a guy I used to work with and how he taught me a cool classroom technique on positioning statements.  I’ve been reflecting on this since my rant about communication skills on Tuesday and I wanted to give you an example of one of the most powerful of all skills, the positioning statement, and a workshop technique you can use.

Just to remind you, the positioning statement is what you tell your customer to help him understand, agree or buy into whatever you ask after the statement.  (See my April 20 post for a full explanation.) 

Positioning is a difficult skill, even more difficult to teach and practice but it’s an essential tool for all skilled communicators.

The Story: one day I’m co-facilitating a workshop with Mark Renfro, a very able colleague, and we’re going to discuss and practice how to ask high-gain needs questions of prospects, always a delicate area because you are generally examining the prospect’s objectives, present situation, current obstacles and so forth, and quite often they don’t want to engage in that much intimacy or disclosure.  So presto!  We use a positioning statement to help the prospect understand why it’s so important for him to share.

So it’s Mark’s turn to lead and he stands before the group and tells them that today we’re going to play a fascinating and fun game.  He says, “You’re going to love this game.  Let me find the box I need,” and he begins rummaging around the room looking for a box.  “What I’m going to have each of you do,” he says, “is put your wallet or purse into a box I’ll pass around.  You’ll see what happens. It’s fun.”  And as he says this he continues to hunt around for the box, deliberately turning away from the learners.

As you can imagine, they all begin to look at each other with a great deal of consternation.  “Where’s he going with this?” they wonder, and some are subtly shaking their heads as if to say, “No way I’m putting my wallet in a box.”

So finally Mark finds a box, approaches the first learner and asks him to put his wallet in.  Of course there is some hesitation and one of those “Are you sure about this?” looks.  And that’s when Mark stops the game and begins to debrief it.  What a sigh of relief!

“What were you thinking when I told you I wanted to collect all your wallets and purses in this box?”  And after getting feedback from the group on all their worries and fears, he summed up the exercise.  “Of course you were concerned, just as your customer is concerned about disclosing intimate financial or personal information.  Asking customers to share private information with you is just like asking them to put their wallet in this box. Isn’t it?  So we’re going to spend some time talking about how you position your need to know this information and put your customer at ease, making it easier for him to share with you.” And with that, he launched the positioning exercise.

I learned many helpful techniques like that one from Mark, who is now a Senior Vice President at Comerica Bank right here in Dallas, Texas. I’ll share some others with you one day.  As for this one, you can see it’s pretty easy, as long as you remember to

Think Like Your Customer!

By the way, I’m spending a few days at the Delaware shore then working in Philadelphia next week.  Have you had vacation yet? Hope you’re having a great summer.

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About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at www.actionsystemstraining.com.

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