Would you trust your lawyer if she took everything at face value? I hope not. Lawyers don’t take anything at face value, they are skeptical of our positions and dig for the facts, and obsess about the other side–their facts, positions, and strategies.

We see this in other professions, as well. Athletes and professional sports teams analyze their opponents. They study their tactics, they understand their plays, they look for opportunity, they don’t underestimate them. We see the same with the military in developing their battle scenarios and plans.

While I hate to position customers as “the other side,” I think it’s useful to apply the models I’ve mentioned as we look at our prospecting and deal strategies. It’s important to put ourselves into the customer’s shoes, to sit behind their desks and look at things from their perspective. What do they see—I mean honestly? Is it what we intended?

Likewise, I think it’s important to be politely skeptical of what customers say. Too often, we tend to respond to the first thing customers say, without really probing and understanding. Like lawyers, it’s really helpful to dig for the underlying facts. These tell us the real issues, problems, needs. Understanding the customer’ s positions and opinions are critical to being able to present our solutions and capabilities in a meaningful way.

Sometimes customers tell us what we want to hear–not maliciously, but sometimes it’s easiest and most expedient. If we blindly accept, we may not be understanding what the customer really means or their intent.

Sometimes customers may be over optimistic about their own capabilities, wants, needs. If we get sucked into this blindly, both we and the customer may be disappointed. Neither of us will achieve what we want.

A little skepticism, politely expressed, can go a long way in clarifying and gaining deeper insight for both the customer and us. Are you being appropriately skeptical?

Thanks to Michael Wade and his post on the same topic. It was inspirational!