The Power of “I Don’t Know”

Building a strong business case is an important part of the sales cycle. But sometimes, we can get caught up in the numbers themselves and miss a very important part of the process.

We all know that we usually start off the process of building a business case by asking questions. The purpose of these questions, of course, is to get a good understanding of the current state, so we can demonstrate effectively how the prospect will be better off with our solution.

During this process, it’s not out of the ordinary for a prospect to not have good answers to our questions. They may even struggle to answer questions that to us seem kind of basic, like the average number of opportunities per week or month, or average cycle time from lead to close, or what stage they most commonly lose the deal.

And that can be super frustrating. Because we need these facts to build the business case, right? Actually, there are a couple of things in this scenario that are really good for us, as sellers.

First, when the prospect has to hear themselves say “I don’t know”, that is a powerful thing. More than 20 years ago, psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger demonstrated that when people knew very little about a topic or situation, they were very likely to over-assess their knowledge and ability. By admitting their lack of knowledge, the prospect is demonstrating intellectual curiosity and intellectual humility, and that opens their mind to the solutions we’re presenting.

Second, by uncovering these gaps in knowledge and understanding of their business, we’re providing a service, and taking a massive step toward the coveted “trusted advisor” status with our prospect. By asking them the challenging questions that they should have the answer to, we’re in effect uncovering potential future problems and getting them thinking of solutions.

So wrapping up, even though a prospect’s inability to answer questions can be frustrating, it is actually a very good sign that they need our help. 

See the rest of this series on the “Building a Better Business Case” Playlist on YouTube

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