With this post we want to illustrate a particular approach to sales negotiation that has its origin in the teaching of the great philosopher Socrates, who lived almost 2 500 years ago, but with a definitely important and current legacy of thought.
Who is Socrates and what does the Socratic method consist of
Explaining in a few lines the biography and philosophy of Socrates is not an easy task. We will try to outline at least the essential features for our argument.
Socrates was a Greek philosopher, one of the most important exponents of the Western philosophical tradition. The most important contribution he has made to the history of human thought consists in his typical method of philosophical inquiry, based on dialogue and the value of doubt as levers to generate knowledge.
This method is also called “maieutic” (from the Greek μαιευτική (τέχνη), properly “(art) obstetric”), because through conversation and questions Socrates was able to “give birth” to the truth from his interlocutor, pushing him to abandon weak and arbitrary opinions, to the point of maturing arguments that rested on consolidated foundations and that resisted the pressing doubts posed by Socrates.
What does Socrates have to do with sales negotiation?
If we ignore the context of the time and relate the Socratic teaching to the reality of sales negotiation, we discover insights to keep in mind.
In fact, at the heart of any successful sales negotiation there are three main factors:
- Knowing how to ask the right questions
- Arouse interest
- Argue effectively
The Socratic method manages to train all three of these skills:
- He asks the most appropriate questions in the context to develop the opinions of his interlocutor
- With the weapon of doubt, it involves the interlocutor forcing him to continually get back into the game
- Use the power of dialogue and aim to demonstrate the reasonableness of your arguments
As you can see, therefore, there is more than one affinity between the Socratic method and the perfect sales manual. In fact, considering that sales negotiations are in fact relationships between individuals, humanistic thought is able to interpret and develop skills of primary importance also for business logic.
But that is not all.
The applicability of the Socratic method to this kind of argument is even more evident with regard to the central role of questions in a sales negotiation, which is also highlighted in our blog post: The power of questions in a sales negotiation.
How to ask business questions using the Socratic method
If the maieutic method has had its main field of application in theory and ethics, it is also true that with a time jump of about 2 500 years we find ourselves having a vast plurality of fields of application for Socratic thought.
In fact, Socrates realized that, by asking the right questions, he could lead his interlocutors to real illuminations. Think about how much such an approach would facilitate a sales negotiation: instead of wasting time in delays and confusing information exchanges, using the Socratic dialogue we could succeed in stimulating our interlocutors to provide us with key information from a commercial perspective.
By asking the right questions in the correct order and at the right time, we would greatly simplify negotiations, handle fewer objections and shorten our sales funnel. Far from being a barrier between us and the other, the questions actually serve to shorten distances and empathize with the latent needs of our interlocutor.
In addition, the concept of ‘question’ develops two other collateral themes that are part of the expertise of an excellent salesperson: the value of silence and the importance of listening. The question is a tool to put our interlocutor at the center of the scene and allow him to open up and tell a whole series of information that would otherwise remain unspoken or, worse still, not considered, but which once brought to light can give everything. a series of strategic insights to allow a sales negotiation to go through.
In this post we wanted to show the applicability of the Socratic method to the concrete dynamics of sales negotiation, showing the power of questions as tools capable of helping our interlocutor to communicate (“give birth”, Socrates would say) the most important information from a trading perspective.
And you, have you ever tried to experiment with such an approach with your potential customers?
Tell us in the form below your considerations and always remember that in a sales negotiation the main thing is to make the subject matter clear immediately because, as Socrates says, “the beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms”.
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