You may not know Dr. Edward De Bono and how he relates to sales questions. He’s the designer of the 6 Thinking Hats process. This process helps groups and individuals create better solutions for problem solving. Sounds like something that would be helpful for sales? It is. Use it to ask better sales questions. Here’s how I used 6 Hats Thinking to move a customer through a difficult sales challenge and get better sales results.
What is De Bono’s 6 Thinking Hats?
Each hat has a color and represents different kinds of thinking. These are the hats: White, Red, Yellow, Green, Blue and Black. White is for thinking about facts and information. Red is for thinking about people’s emotions of the question or problem. Yellow is for the optimism you might have for a solution and why it would be successful. Green is for creative thinking. Creative thinking could produce wild ideas that might not even be possible, but in Green hat work these what-if ideas are acceptable. Blue hat thinking is process thinking and outlines the order of the hats you will consider.
Sometimes it’s better for a group to get the emotions (red hat) out of the way early before they tackle a problem. Other times it’s better to wait. Black hat thinking is about the negatives. What’s the worst that could happen? When you uncover the worst situations then you can prepare for them to try to avoid them.
Using the Hats to frame the sales challenge.
Before I was hired, this client faced a cash flow problem. We talked through the problem and how he had arrived in this current situation. We reviewed the facts (White hat), his ideas for a solution (Green hat), his feelings toward the ideas (Red hat) and the down side to some of the solutions (Black hat.) I thought his Green hat thinking of creative ideas would not be possible. I was right. The facts made it clear what his options were. What he wanted to do was in fact not possible with tight cash flow. The Black hat thinking made that evident. Your options become much clearer when you realize what the down side of an issue is. You may not be willing or able to face the negative consequences.
Interesting output of 6 Thinking Hats.
I asked my client sales questions about his investor partners as White hat thinking during the 6 Thinking Hat process. Their role was a very important one in making any decisions moving forward. During Red Hat thinking I asked how he thought his partners would feel about a few of his proposed solutions. By making it clear that this was not the time for the most optimistic thinking, but an answer to my sales question based on reality, he indicated his partners were going to be very fiscally conservative moving forward.
One of my sales questions to my client was, “Why would your partners not buy?” The answer disclosed their need for more income stability in the future and immediate cash flow improvement. Once he realized what would result in his partners’ rejection of a solution, he limited his options to ones he thought they could accept.
When you sell to prospects you probably ask yourself this sales question, “Why should this prospect buy from me?” You develop your sales strategy based on all the reasons the prospect should want your solution and buy from you. You might want to ask yourself this additional question to prepare your sales strategy. The question is, “Why would this prospect not buy from me?” or “What do I think this prospect would reject?” You could find challenges you need to address in your sales strategy so your prospect could say yes, instead of no.
The 6 Hats thinking process has been a useful problem solving tool for both me and my clients. Why don’t you put on each one of the hats the next time you have a sales challenge and need to find the best solution?