Need-Payoff Questions

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Setting: An initial discussion with a client who needs help on Project X. You’re excited because you’ve done Project X before, and you’ve shared convincing evidence that you’re an X-pert.

In this scenario, it is easy to forget to establish with the client the business value at stake.

After all, the client wants a problem solved, and you can solve it.

And yet the client may not have thought through the business value of solving the problem.

Having an explicit discussion makes the business implications more salient, and puts your fee in context with the expected return.

Neil Rackham calls these “Need-Payoff Questions” and covers them in Chapter 4 of Spin Selling.
David A. Fields covers these in the chapters on the Context Discussion in The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients.

Here are a few:

  • How would this help your business?
  • How will it be useful if [we get these insights from consumers / improve throughput on the line / get top team alignment / …]
  • In what other ways could this help?
  • Why do you think it would be a good idea to…
  • Why do you need to….
  • How will it benefit your customers if….
  • What impact will it have if…..
  • How will profitability / customer retention / sales productivity change if…
  • Let’s assume the project is complete and has been very successful. Tell me how your world is different.
  • What would this let us do that we can’t do right now?