Posted by: magnussonllc | April 8, 2010

9 Block Vision Processing Model – Questioning Tool

The most important driver for change is pain. If we can define the customer’s pain points and communicate these throughout the project we are truly helping the client and will be perceived as trusted advisors who really understand their situation.

However, in most cases, there are three levels of customer needs:

  1. Latent Need
  2. Pain
  3. Customer vision of solution

It is important to realize that we are working from the customer‘s view point. When a consultant learns to distinguish between the three levels of need, the customer’s shifting concerns will become more apparent and we’ll be able to align our solutions more accurately.

There are different strategies for handling the three levels of need.

Level 1: Latent need

Most latent needs fall into two categories. Either the customer is unaware of the problem (the boiling frog syndrome) or concluded that whatever was available was too expensive, too complicated or too cumbersome. When the customer is having a latent need, one of the most successful strategies we can use is to give a reference story. In a reference story, we tell the client a story of another individual in the same industry, with an identical position facing the same situation and with our help was able to solve the problem they faced.  This is a story the client should be able to relate to. There is no risk in telling a reference story. If the client relates to the story we have helped them identify their pain or need. If they don’t relate to the story, we still looks to be the customer oriented company that we are.

Having strong reference stories and using them is a critical consulting tool in developing and finding customer needs.

Level 2: Pain

In a Level 2 need, the client recognizes a need or pain but does not know how to resolve it. Possibly the customer is unhappy with the existing situation or is uncomfortable with how things currently are. Transforming these pains into explicit needs will generate heightened customer awareness and prioritization.

One tool we can use is the 9 Block Vision Processing Model that is pictured below:

The words open, control and confirm signify the style of questions the consultant employs. Open questions invite the client to express himself freely. Control questions allow the consultant to keep control of the subject matter being discussed. Confirm questions summarize our understanding of client’s situation.

Across the top you’ll find the words: reasons, impact and capabilities. By remembering these types of questions, the consultant can comfortably and logically take the client through a diagnosis of the reasons for his pain (finding the true problem), explore the impact of the pain (understand the business and technical implications), and listen to the client’s take on a potential solution (being customer centric).

Each box consists of several questions. These questions can also work as a structure for workshops and project meetings when identifying reasons, implications or solution visualizations for clients.

Level 3: Vision of Solution

At level three the customer can see a vision of the solution. The client recognizes a need or pain, can describe need requirements, accepts responsibility for solving the problem, and can visualize the process going forward. The client is actively looking for a solution. When presenting our solution or approach we must make sure that we use the information we have learned from the client during the earlier stages. We must show that we understand the problem and that our approach can solve it. Many consultants present very technological solutions with an emphasis on the product and the features. This approach can alienate Business Decision Makers. We must present a value proposition that the client connects with. A value proposition has many purposes:

  • It defines our Unique Business Value
  • It is specific to the customer or the project
  • It creates a specific or measurable business and technical outcome
  • It sets customer expectations
  • It assures our ability to deliver
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