As a child, I remember one of my favorite games was connect the dots. What initially looked like just a bunch of random dots on paper, could magically be connected to create an unexpected prize, and that prize was a picture. Well, when looking at how ideas are formed in another person’s mind, all you need to do is connect the dots, and I’ll prove it to you.
When people look at specific solutions to address their needs, they are usually completely unaware of the string of connections that got them there. For instance, one of my favorite little products is a pair of glasses made from a company called Thinoptics. This particular company manufactures a thin, lightweight, comfortable pair of reading glasses that can be carried on the back of your phone, purse or pocket. Many people, like me, can get away without glasses, but once in a while, I’m without a way to make out critical text. You find yourself guessing at what you are reading, and after you guess wrong once or twice, you’ll buy yourself a pair of Thinoptics. But that’s the finished picture; let’s take a look at how you get there.
It begins with a problem. Needs don’t drop out of the sky; they actually are formed by the challenges we endure. It’s not uncommon for people like me to only require the use of glasses when reading smaller print. I had no need for glasses… as long as my wife was with me; I just borrowed her glasses. When I didn’t have the luxury of her trusty purse, I found myself often straining to read a menu or a text message on my phone when I was out of the house. I can’t tell you how many times I saw some rather strange foods arrive at my table, or some quizzical replies from those I had sent bizarre text messages to. Now that you see the problem, let’s connect the dots:
- The Problem Shapes the Need. With the problem identified, the mind moves and connects to the need. This usually presents itself as a rather vague desire. In this case, I found myself wanting a thin, lightweight pair of glasses. I wanted them in a place where I wouldn’t forget to bring them with me. I wanted them to be thin enough to fit in my pocket.
- The Need Shapes the Solution. With the need identified, the mind moves and connects to the solution. Like many men, I don’t carry much, so the solution began to take shape as something small that could be connected to my wallet, keys, cash, or cellphone case.
- The Solution Shapes the Feature. With the solution identified, the mind makes its final move and connects to specific features that both address the need and solve the problem. In this example, I settled on a 3.75” x 1.94” case that attached to my cellphone, with a width of 0.19 inches for the glasses, and a weight of 1.76 Ounces.
This string of events was in no way random – it was just a matter of connecting the dots. When you’re trying to help someone past his or her fear of change, you need to be aware of these dots that are being psychologically connected. Now, let’s connect the dots from a salesperson’s perspective.
- The Problem Shapes the Need. Once you learn about the connection between problems and needs, you see the wisdom of not walking into a situation with someone you’re trying to persuade and asking him or her what they need. Instead, you spend some time establishing trust and earning the right to ask problem related questions like, “What are some of the challenges you are currently experiencing?”
- The Need Shapes the Solution. Once you learn about that connection between needs and solutions, you see the wisdom of not going deep into the solution you want to recommend. Instead, you pivot off those problems and ask questions like, “You mentioned a few minutes ago that you just can’t seem to remember to bring glasses with you. Are you looking for a solution that allows you to have them with you, but without having to specifically remember to pack them?”
- The Solution Shapes the Feature. Once you learn about that connection between solutions and features, you see the wisdom of pivoting off those solutions, and providing tight connections between the solution the customer is requiring, and the specific features you offer that satisfy the customer’s requirements. Once you’ve shown someone features that specifically address the solution he or she is seeking, you certainly won’t have to guess what the answer might be when you ask confirming questions like, “Do you think that will take care of this glasses issue once and for all?”
So you see, when you look at how people make decisions, and how to work within those decision patterns, it’s just a matter of connecting the dots. Want one more dot to connect? If you learn to ask questions about problems that your solution is specifically geared to address, you can connect the dot that moves others to your solutions. You will be able to make that discovery their idea rather than yours! How’s that for a good game of connect the dots?