Q Notes, Quadrant 1: The Question Quadrant

To be useful to a client, you need ideas that help them. It’s a lot easier to get ideas when you understand their reality, what they need, how your client perceives their situation. You don’t get this without asking questions. A good sales meeting is devoted to questions.

qs-blackboardTo be useful to a client, you need ideas that help them. It’s a lot easier to get ideas when you understand their reality, what they need, how your client perceives their situation. You don’t get this without asking questions. A good sales meeting is devoted to questions.

Q-Notes is a technique for taking notes during a sales meeting with a client. But Q-Notes isn’t just a method for capturing what happens in a meeting; it’s a questioning agenda for the meeting itself.

Q-Notes organizes your notes page spatially, into four quadrants. Have a look at the Q-Notes template at the bottom of this article. Quadrant 1 doubles as your meeting agenda. Here’s how you use Quadrant 1.

When you enter the meeting Quadrant 1 is populated with at least five questions, five areas you’ve discovered in your research that you’d like to explore with your client. Once you’ve established credibility (i.e. when your client is willing to answer the questions you ask), start working through your agenda. Ask the questions you’ve written in Quadrant 1.

You’ll probably discover that some of the questions you entered the meeting with are dead ends. (That’s why we suggest starting with five.) Alternatively, some of the questions lead you to new question areas. Imagine you’re helping your client explore problems they’re having getting their new Quebec based operation up and running smoothly. They mention that the reason they expanded to Quebec was because they were having production issues in their US operations. That’s another whole area to explore. You scribble prdctn? in Quadrant 1 of your notes page. It’s a reminder to ask about those production issues when you’ve finished following the Quebec thread. Continue to note in Quadrant 1 any other new areas for exploration that come up as you’re talking. They add to your question agenda.

Quadrant 1 becomes an active improvised agenda. It reacts to the forks in the conversation that lead to new areas for you to ask about and explore.

As you listen to your client answer your questions, you’ll get ideas about how you might help. In a typical conversation, you’d probably offer these ideas as they occur to you. The Q-Notes process modifies the natural conversation slightly. You don’t say your ideas as they occur to you. You wait. You stay in the question. You note them in Quadrant 2, and you save them until the end of the meeting. Then you return to Quadrant 1, see your note, prdctn?, and ask a question about their US production issues. You follow your agenda of questions until you’re finished (or until your time is running out.)

Quadrant 1 is the active questioning agenda. Quadrant 2 is the value quadrant. Remember to stay in Quadrant 1 until you’re done exploring, only then do you cross the line into Quadrant 2.

We’ll talk more about the power of waiting to deliver that value in an upcoming post on Quadrant 2 of Q-Notes.

Qnotes

The ideas from this post come from Tim and Tim’s book Never Be Closing.

More on Taking Notes

The face-to-face client meeting is the most important piece of the sales process. Capturing everything you can from that meeting fuels the future of the relationship.

PencilsBlogIn our previous post we introduced some thoughts from Never Be Closing and The Mom Test, about taking notes in a sales meeting.

If you’ve ever tried to decipher your notes after a meeting, you’ll know why this topic is relevant. The face-to-face client meeting is the most important piece of the sales process. Capturing everything you can from that meeting fuels the future of the relationship.

You have to take notes in a meeting so you can mine what you learned in the meeting to build the relationship. It takes a certain skill to conduct a useful conversation, and capture anything useful that surfaces in that conversation.

Our last post gave some key ideas around how to record more information with fewer strokes of the pen (by using Q-notes and symbols), so you can pay attention to your client and not your notebook. Here are some other thoughts on note-taking that we culled from the two books.

Go to meetings in twos. One can take notes, writing as much as necessary, while the other conducts the conversation. The note taker can also be thinking, to make sure important threads in the conversation get followed through.

Capture direct quotes, says The Mom Test. They can be powerful descriptions of your product or service that you wouldn’t think of yourself.

Use emoticons to capture the emotion of the person as he or she said what they said. Angry, excited or blasé; the emotion (or lack of it) with which something is said, is information. How people feel is sometimes more useful than what they say.

Always debrief the meeting notes afterward with your team. Always.

And it goes without saying: Always take notes. Good luck!

Taking Notes in a Client Meeting

306cdebe-31af-4f82-9689-d4794266688cRob Fitz’s book, The Mom Test, was recommended by a friend, who is the CTO of a financial startup. It’s essentially a book about sales conversations for startup entrepreneurs. The Mom Test explains to an entrepreneur how to have a conversation with potential future customers; a conversation that truly allows you to validate (or disqualify) your startup idea. In the preview of the book the author says one of the topics he’ll cover is how to take notes in a meeting while still paying attention.

Naturally, our first thought was, “Rob Fitz has stolen our idea!” How to take notes in a meeting and still have a conversation is a Never Be Closing idea. We talk about how to effectively take notes in a meeting. We haven’t seen anyone else write about it — until Rob Fitz.

Rob’s book is really useful if you have a startup idea you want to vet. One must read to the end of The Mom Test to find out Rob’s technique on the how-to-take-notes question. Although Rob’s technique is different than ours, the premise for why and how to take notes is the same. Since it’s not easy to write down the answer to one question while asking another, the premise for effective note taking in a meeting is this: write as little as possible and have it mean as much as possible.

Rob’s technique to do this is to use a series of symbols that replace words one uses often; shorthand headings really, to help you understand and navigate your notes. Here are Rob’s symbols.

[Z-symbol for lightning bolt] Pain or problem

Π Goal or job-to-be-done (symbol is a soccer/football goal)

☐ Obstacle


⤴ Workaround

^ Background or context (symbol is a distant mountain)

☑ Feature request or purchasing criteria

$ Money or budgets or purchasing process

♀ Mentioned a specific person or company

☆ Follow-up task

Never Be Closing suggests a different technique: organizing your notes spatially on the page, by quadrant. We call it Q-notes. You write different categories of notes in different quadrants. Q-notes works like this:

The upper left quadrant is areas to explore further in the meeting- Questions. (Rob’s first four symbols might fit there.)

The lower left quadrant is information you want to remember but won’t explore further in the meeting. (Rob’s next four symbols fit there.)

The lower right quadrant is for follow-up items, Rob’s last symbol.

The upper right quadrant in the Q-notes format is the ideas you have to deliver value to your client; transmitted at the end of the meeting. (Rob’s book is more about exploratory sales conversations, finding out if someone would truly buy your future product or service. Delivering value today to your client isn’t featured in his thinking.)

The top half of your page is for use during the meeting, and the bottom half of your page is for your use after the meeting.

If you know that everything you write in the upper left quadrant of your page is a question you want to ask during the meeting, you can write less and still decipher what you wrote and what it means.

The two methods taken together allow you to capture even more information while paying attention to your future customer instead of your own scribbling. With a little practice, you can make a note (and a symbol) in a quadrant of your page and never break eye contact with your client.

Good luck!