Helping someone to buy the best notebook computer is a great business excercise

I get this question all the time from friends and family: “I’m going to need to buy a notebook computer now. Which one should I get?”

Knowing that I live in a world where the answer won’t be accepted without a little bit of probing questions, I always ask questions to steer them to the one answer that I believe in and through my questioning, the person asking for my help feels good that I’ve listened to them well enough to help them make an informed decision.  Here is how that conversation typically goes….

ME: Buying a notebook is a pretty expensive decision. What’s the key factor that has you wanting one?

THEM: I’m away from my desk over half the time and I want to have access to my data, work on my blog, and do work that I’d normally have to wait in order to do back at my desk.

ME: So let me see if I have this right… the important things are your ability to get to your data, be able to blog, and to bring your ‘desk’ with you?

THEM: Yes. Exactly.

ME: Have you figured out how much productivity time that would give you back in a day to have access and capabilities like that everyday?

THEM: Oh, I think it would give me a couple extra hours of productivity, I’m sure.

ME: 2 hours is a lot of productivity gain. Is that time that you’re sitting in airports or waiting to meet with people, or something like that?

THEM: Yes. Exactly. When I’m away from the office, it’s about 2 hours a day of that kind of dead time?

ME: Would you miss that dead time? Are you sure you’d want to turn that time into productive time? Some people would miss it.

THEM: Absolutely.

ME: IF you were to put a value on that time, say an hourly rate that the time is worth, what would that be?

THEM: Well, I suppose it would be worth $40 an hour.

ME: Wow. That’s $80 a day or over $1600 a month in extra productivity. So you say you’re loosing that productivity value now?
THEM: Well, I never thought of it that way – but yes I am.

ME: How does it make you feel, knowing the value of not being in the right notebook computer is virtually costing you over $19,000 per year?

THEM: That seems like too big of a number. I hate to think it’s costing me that much.

ME: If you got back that time, virtually putting that $19,000 back into your pocket – what would that look like in your world?

THEM: Well, I’d have more free time when I’m not travelling – so I could spend more time with my kids. I could do more interesting things after work, (etc.)

ME: If I recommended that you not go cheap on this computer because the results you’re going to be worth so much more, would you take my advice and spend a little extra money to guarantee your happiness, get that productivity time back, and get to feel better about getting more time for your kids and improving your after work life?

THEM: Yes. I believe you know what’s best for me in this.

ME: So a $1500 investment in a solid built, super light, notebook computer – would be a productivity boost for you. And it you’d get the extra benefits out of it that you REALLY need, right? That’s less than one months worth of productivity that you’re loosing now. Pretty easy to justify buying the extra quality isn’t it?

THEM: Yes – but you still haven’t told me what brand and model to buy. Which one do you recommend?

ME: Buy a MacBook Air. They’re frickin’ awesome.

In the end, my answer is always the same because I love the product. Apple made an incredible product in the MacBook Air. But the exercise of getting someone to listen, sense that you care about their issues, and to truly discuss what they’ll get out of their product purchase decision – is more important than the short answer (the last thing I said to them).

Imagine, if I just answered ” Buy a MacBook Air. They’re frickin’ awesome.” Then they’d still have to justify to themselves to buy a very expensive computer, compare tons of features, and could easily end up with a lousy and heavy computer.

Notice that I’m not going into the features of the MacBook Air. I could be talking about the 2.75lb weight, the incredible display, the 12 hour battery life, the awesome boot time, the best operating system, etc, etc. But I leave that conversation for the nerds in the Apple store. I just want my friend to be emotionally attached to the decision that I helped them make.

When you get good at helping people to make decisions like this – you’re not ‘selling them’ or ‘tricking them’ but you’re giving them better tools to accept your recommendations. And when you’re really good at that – you can truly help people in your business too.

All the best to you,
- JR Fent

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