Bob Schultek
Author of
The Gauntlet

When we need help to resolve a problem, none of us wants to be sold; but we do appreciate the opportunity to explore what we value and why, without the high pressure tactics.A customer may have a good handle on his or her specific challenge or goal to be achieved, but often there is less clarity about why achievement is important. Resolving the problem may address a visible, troubling short term pain point, but could the solution be configured to also contribute to the achievement of a longer term objective, one that produces sustainable strategic value?

Asking provocative questions elevates the customer’s awareness of this option. They challenge the customer to think more broadly and to see things differently. They can help the customer align divergent interests, clarify goals, understand inherent biases, and identify mistaken perceptions.

Provocative questions are designed to challenge the customer to think in ways they hadn’t previously considered. “Have you considered . . . ? Can I ask why you . . . ? Where you aware that . . . ? Have you seen . . . ?  What was the motive behind . . . ?” Answers to these questions provide insights for the customer, illuminating how priorities influenced prior decisions or how acquired knowledge gained from experience could alter those priorities now. Process and rationale get a more thorough examination, so a customer is enabled to make better, faster decisions.

Challenge your customers with provocative questions which encourage them to think about alternative solutions that address the short term pain while contributing to the sustainable strategic value that stimulates success.

A customer relationship is transformed when a customer says, “I’ve never considered that before,” or “I didn’t know that was possible,” or “No one has ever asked me that before.”

How can you integrate provocative questions
into your discovery process?
How does knowing “why” a goal is important
help clarify strategic value for the customer?