alt text image of a blackboard with a long math equation

Show Your Work

When you were a kid in school, your math teacher made you show your work. In my case, the Nuns at St. James the Less insisted that any answer without the accompanying steps to arrive at that answer was wrong. It wasn’t enough to know the right answer. You had to prove you knew how to get to the right answer.

When the contacts in your dream client company ask you hypothetical questions about how you generate some result or deal with some challenging issue, they aren’t checking to see if you know the right answer. They’ve had a lot of salespeople give them the right answer only to be disappointed by the way that salesperson and their company handled the problem or issue after they hired them. They want you to show your work.

Your answer needs to start with a story in which you had to deal with the issue or challenge embedded in the hypothetical question they asked. You have to share the steps you took–and will take–to address those challenges. And even this isn’t enough. You have to explain why you deal with problems and challenges the way that you do, how you came up with that answer.

There is no longer an economic buyer. Every stakeholder is responsible for making a good financial decision now. But those with a real economic bent to their role, like purchasing or the Chief Financial Officer, are going to demand that you show your work to. If you are going to talk about the ROI, you are going to have to explain how you are going to deliver that return on investment. This is especially true when you have a higher price than your competitors. What are you going to do that is going to produce that return?

It’s worth thinking about the stories you tell that allow you to show your work. That’s what helps generate trust and provide the vision. It’s also worth thinking what proof you provide that will give your dream client confidence that you know how you intend to produce the results you promise.


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