By:
November 16 2017

What a cookie-selling kid can teach us about guided selling

It all started with the doorbell ringing in the middle of Sunday dinner. A young kid that I somewhat recognized from the neighborhood stood right outside my door. “Would you like to buy some cookies? We’re selling to go on a class trip.”
If this kid would have been someone I knew, the answer would have been yes, regardless of whether I wanted cookies or not. But since this kid didn’t know my kid, I said something like “I don’t eat cookies …" and something "yada-yada-yada-not-healthy.”
But this kid had obviously attended some advanced sales training. 
“Oh, that’s too bad. So, you’re that kind of person that only buys traditional Swedish whole grain crispbread?” I nodded my head and said something like “Yes, you’re absolutely right.”
“Well, in that case, you should really try our crispbread. Everybody loves them.”
In this situation, I didn’t really have any other option than to sign up for the crispbread. If I didn’t, I wouldn't be consistent with what I just said. So, I ended up contributing to this class trip anyhow.

What just happened?

From a very early age, we learn that it’s important to be consistent. And before we’ve mastered this, anything inconsistent we say is usually pointed out by peers and parents. In short, we learn that it’s very important that what you’re saying makes sense in relation to what you’ve said before. This urge to be consistent means that our first choice will have a big impact on the second choice.  (This works very much like priming in behavioral psychology, but we don’t need to be that academic to understand the consequences.) Yesterday’s story is just a short example of how the need for consistency helped the cookie kid seal the deal.

So, why is this important when it comes to CPQ?

Because the logic used by the cookie kid applies to CPQ, too. When we answer the guided questions in CPQ, one answer will inevitably influence the next. Let's look at an example.
 
Say that you’re configuring a car and the first guided selling question makes you choose between “Environmental” or “Performance”. How you answer this question will influence how you answer the rest of your questions no matter what options will be available to you. If you decided to go for “Environmental”, it will not be consistent to buy the bigger motors anymore. The opposite is true if you selected “Performance”. That’s why it’s important to understand how one question will lead the customer down a certain path.
 
We must understand that when answering one question, we might make choices about the other questions as well, without us being aware of it. When you make your choices, you’re priming yourself in a certain direction - simply because we always strive to be consistent. To create a strategic sales tool, we must understand how one question influences other questions, no matter if they are limited by logic or consistency.  This is one of the challenges for my workshop tomorrow. The second challenge is that I promised to bring something for the coffee break. The only thing I have at home is whole grain crispbread, but I guess that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

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