How would Socrates sell my business?

The Greek philosopher Socrates is known (via the writings of his student, Plato), for teaching by asking questions.

If I asked you about your business, you would explain to me everything that you consider important about your business. You would actually try to sell me on your product or service by giving me the information you think I wanted, or needed, to know to make a decision.

That is probably also how you think about your business. We think about our businesses in “characteristic terms”, meaning that we verbalise our business in terms of what it sells. We don’t think of our businesses in terms of what it does for a potential client.

The small business owner should think in terms of asking questions to find the answers to sell. As business owners, we should think about our business in “answer terms”:

  • What question does my product or service answers?
  • What problem does it solve?
  • What difficulty does it make easier for the potential client?
  • Why would people use my product or service?
  • Why wouldn’t they use my product or service?
  • How can you use my product or service to solve your difficulty?
  • When is my product or service most valuable to the customer?
  • Who may have a need for my product or service?
  • Where is my product/service most valuable/effective?
  • What “problem” does my product/service solve?
  • What will convince my potential customer to buy my product/service?
  • Who influences the decision maker who must decide to buy my product/service?
  • What conversations go on in the mind of my potential customer before she makes a decision about my product/service?
  • How can I increase the number of buyers of my product/service?
  • How can I increase the amount spent by existing customers?
  • How can I increase the frequency potential customers use my product/service?
  • How can I get old customers to use my product/service again/repeatedly?
  • What is the difference to my customer before and after she has used my product/service?
  • How can I make my product/service useful to a larger group of people?
  • Who can help me sell my product/service? (Testimonials)
  • Once you know the questions, you can formulate the answers.

It is interesting that we talk about our businesses in terms what are important to us.

That may be because we accept that what is important to us, is also important to a potential customer. That could obviously not be true because the seller and the buyer are on different sides of the event. The business of our business is not to serve us but to serve a potential customer. That is the reason why our product or service exists. The WHY of my business.

When we think or talk about our business, we tend to think about what we sell. The client thinks about what need it fulfils. We think in terms of the price. The customer thinks in terms of the value.

Client: I am looking for an office Agent: I am an agent (I “sell” office space) Alternative: Tell me what you need in an office? (What value are you looking for?)

Socratic questions could be divided into six types.

It is for the small business owner to find the questions that will give her the answers that she can sell to potential customers:

  • Understanding or clarifying questions e.g. what is the problem you are trying to solve?
  • Assumption challenging questions e.g. how could to prove or disprove that?
  • Evidence examining questions e.g. how do you know that?
  • Alternative perspective questions e.g. who could be affected and what would they say?
  • Consequence questions e.g. what if you are wrong?
  • Questions about the question e.g. what else might I ask?

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