Not many successful sales professionals admit they have never heard of the term  ‘Business Case’, or for that matter what it is and what purpose the business case serves!  But, Jim, one of my long standing private coaching clients, admitted to me recently that he had never come across the term!

“How come?” I asked.   “Well it’s never really come up.  I don’t know why. I’ve always simply and honestly tried to help my prospects to determine what is the real problem and how important it is to resolve, rather than talking about apparent problems; and then to help them to sell the agreed problem and our solution to the powers that be.  For example the Managing Director or the Procurement Committee.”

Our conversation went on to discuss the relevance and importance of a business cases:

  • when they are relevant or needed.
  • whether they are address real or apparent business problems.
  • how important it is to solve the problem.
  • who is impacted.
  • who needs to be involved etc.

Jim is now acutely aware of what a business cases is, why they are considered important and how they can affect sales results.  He wished he had known all this sooner, as he had just lost a big order four days before the end of the business quarter!

This led to some very difficult conversations internally and produced a challenging cashflow problem. He later found out that the project /sale he was working to secure didn’t carry the importance he thought it did.

However, now every time Jim meets a new prospective client, he is acutely aware that his job is to get to the truth as quickly as possible so the right solution can be found, and the right amount of support is given to it.

We then went on to talk about the types of questions that get prospects to respond positively and openly. Jim agreed with me that few sales professionals rarely ask enough questions to find out what prospects are really saying, thinking or not saying.

We had quit a bit of fun generating some relevant questions he can ask his prospective clients during a ‘Discovery’ meeting, which included:

  • ‘What haven’t I asked you that I should have?’
  • ‘I’m curious about what else you are thinking about regarding this issue.’
  • ‘What I am  most curious about is what you have not considered about…….’
  • ‘What will happen if you don’t get the results you need?’
  • ‘What happens if you don’t solve your problem?’
  • ‘What else are you going to try to solve the problem?’
  •  ‘What things do you see getting in the way of this business case?’
  • ‘What is your CEO’s process for approving business cases?’
  • ‘So, of all the other things on your plate, how important is it to you to solve this problem right now?’
  • ‘I’m curious about what it is that you are thinking about right now.’


Sales challenges …
how are they viewed by professionals? 

This led to us to discuss how top sales professionals view sales challenges.  In Jim’s opinion ,world-class sales professional doesn’t listen solely to their prospect’s problems, they are listening to their prospect’s client’s problems.  By so doing they can connect the dots and therefore are more likely to get an order; but more importantly, the ‘seller is in a better position to help prospects to achieve the results they are looking for.

Since our discussion Jim has improved his results because:

  • He now asks enough of the right questions, so he rarely misses out on something which may be vital.
  • He appreciates that the easiest way to help prospects is to ask them relevant, searching and open-ended questions; then ensuring he intensely and deliberately listens to the responses – trying to establish what the prospect might not be revealing or saying!
  • He also knows what helps prospects the most, is his ability to help sell the business case to others in higher authority.


What’s the moral of this story?

Well the only way to help prospects is to truly know what they are trying to achieve. This is done through asking questions that reveal the full situation, the relevant level of impact and how important it is to solve.

There is normally a person of ‘Higher Authority’ that needs to approve your recommendations; so, think about what criteria your prospect’s boss or client might find relevant and important.