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