Let me tell you a story about eight-year-old Nancy, a student in the public school system. One day during art class, Nancy painted a picture. Considering her age and development as a young artist, the picture of a house and the setting sun was really quite good. However, it was obvious that the picture was unbalanced. Nancy had painted the house and the sun to the left side of the canvas.
Nancy's art teacher, who held a master's degree in art, observed the picture and said, "Nancy, this is really a fine painting. But, it needs something on the right side." And with that, the teacher picked up a brush and painted a seagull in the upper right corner of the canvas. Nancy became very upset and began to cry.
That evening at the dinner table Nancy was still upset. Her father asked, "What's the trouble, Nancy?" The little girl replied, "Nothing," but her pouting face encouraged her father to continue pressing the issue. Finally, Nancy showed her father the painting. He admired it and said enthusiastically, "This is very good, Nancy. I really like the seagull." At that, Nancy burst into tears and ran off to her bedroom.
After Nancy's father learned that the seagull was the source of her unhappiness, he complained to the art teacher who, in her own defense, cited her reasoning and her credentials. Getting nowhere with the teacher, Nancy's father visited the school principal, and then he contacted his attorney. One battle followed another and eventually both parties ended up in court. It was a long, drawn out trial with many hours of testimony about the freedom of expression, the role of an educator, and so on.
Having listened intently as both sides told their stories, the judge turned to Nancy and asked why she had become so upset about the seagull. Nancy replied, "Because I did not see it there."
Case closed; decision in favor of Nancy.
So what's the seagull have to do with selling? Your prospects have a mental picture of their needs even before they meet you. Every change or addition you make to their picture may cause the prospects to become uncomfortable, even unhappy, like Nancy. If it's necessary to make a change in a prospect's mental picture, you'll be wise to let the prospect "discover" the need for the change.
You might think that certain features or benefits of your product or service would help you close a sale if only your prospect knows about the features or benefits. But it would be a mistake to paint a seagull in your prospect's picture.
Instead, "dummy up." Ask a few questions designed to find out if your prospect would like a seagull in his / her picture. If so, all to your advantage. If not, no damage done.