3 Questions to Understand any Business in 2022

Big Ideas

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April 14 2022
Big Ideas
Author: Michael McAffrey

3 Questions to Understand any Business - Updated for 2022


If you’re in sales or consulting, you’ve likely found yourself 10 minutes into a conversation, nodding along as your prospect continues explaining the second merger & acquisition their company underwent before they hired their last acting interim CEO… yadda yadda yadda.


You know full well that you don’t need this information to help them.


And yet, you know you’re going to burn through half the allotted meeting time listening to the entire backstory. 


You might think that this is a necessary part of the job… business owners love to talk about their business, right?




There is a better way to do this. It’s a little-known secret among top sales professionals that the ‘doctor frame’ is the best way to approach a sales conversation or discovery meeting.


This is honestly a topic that deserves it’s own space (yes, I’m hinting amazing future content coming soon)… but suffice it to say…when you walk into a doctor’s office to treat a broken arm, you don’t tell the backstory of the hike, who you were with, the wildlife you saw. 


You don’t need this information as a salesperson or a consultant either.


The thing you generally need to know is how YOU can help that person… but before you can get there, you need to know a little bit about the business. 


That’s where these 3 questions come in.


And the best part is that at the end of this article, I’m going to show you how to use these 3 questions to frame up what YOU do in 10 seconds. Having this in your back pocket is the best gift I can give you. 





This is a slight variation on “who are your customers?”, that was mentioned in our original 2018 blog post 3 questions You Need to Ask to Understand any Business,< link: https://www.sherpamarketing.ca/3-questions-you-need-to-ask-to-understand-any-business-61 > but it’s better. It’s better because, out of the gate, you’re framing up their business in terms of problem/solution. 


This slight change in framing naturally gets people to start thinking in terms of the value they bring to their customers, rather than the products and services they happen to sell (spoiler: that’s important for later!). 


Use this opportunity to push them and zero in on their specific customer. A business who sells to “everyone” sells to no one. 


You might get hit with one of these “we help people who want ____”. OK great. What kinds of other things do they have in common? Starbucks doesn’t help “people who want coffee”.... They help “trendy professionals who love to customize their caffeine fix”.


You may have heard of an Ideal Customer Profile or Customer Avatar <link: https://www.sherpamarketing.ca/how-to-create-an-effective-buyer-persona-618> … that’s what you should be aiming for. The more narrowly you can niche down <link https://www.sherpamarketing.ca/how-to-pinpoint-your-niche-608 > who your customer is, the more precise you can be in your marketing, branding, and messaging to stand out and become the PERFECT fit for that ideal customer. 





This is a better way of asking “What do you sell”? Rather than framing up their business as a product or service or even a SOLUTION, you’re asking them to frame it up through the lens of their market’s pain points. 


If you can understand the problem that a business solves for their customer, you get a look behind the curtain at what motivates their customers.


This starts to scratch the surface of the “WHY” of the business. 


People don’t want stuff… they want their lives to be better. A business’s goal should be to get massive clarity on what their customers’ biggest pain points are, what they lose sleep over, what they long to have in their lives… and figure out a way to get it for them. 


In certain companies, perhaps these things are somewhat commoditized. An airline might say that they “help people get from A to B”. But let’s look at WestJet. They shook things up by helping people actually enjoy air travel by providing a light-hearted approach to their customer service. 

If, through this discussion, you can help someone articulate this for the first time, it will already likely be one of the most fruitful discussions they’ve had all month.



This one is usually pretty easy, and people love to talk about it. This question puts them back in their comfort zone because they can talk about what they do and how it works. 


The tendency here is for people to embellish, elaborate and provide a lot of extra detail. You have the option of cutting this off if you want to keep the conversation focused… or letting them ramble a bit. 


The point is to START with the important things - who they help and what problem they solve for them.


You’d be astonished at the number of times I’ve asked “Who do you help and what problem you solve” and the answer begun with “well, we started our company in 2004…” So, in a sales context, I’d recommend taking control of the conversation and re-focusing them on the question. Company history is interesting, but there’s a time and a place.




OK, you made it to my favorite part. I call it the “Intro Upgrade”. Now that you have all the context, it’s easy to formulate your perfect intro.


I help <customer> with  <problem> through <mechanism>.


Easy right? Here are enough examples to get you more than started:


Me: I help B2B brands create killer strategies & systems to attract new customers. 


Brian @ First Descent AR: I help agencies add AR solutions to their shelf through white-labelling AR development.


Dan @ SaaS Academy: I help SaaS founders scale to their perfect exit


Phil @ Proven: we help entrepreneurs save money and choose the right vendors and partners.


Luke @ CloudCard: we help ID card offices streamline their photo submission process


This 3-question approach gets you to a deeper level with the person you’re speaking with, but it’s also a great way to communicate very quickly what YOU are all about. 


Try it out - you’ll never look back!



Though this question framework breeds clarity in your discussion and helps you understand businesses quickly, the real work is next… 


The next piece is helping them get clear on (1) where they’re at, (2) where they’re going and (3) what’s standing in the way.


Those 3 pieces are extremely powerful in positioning your expertise in a way that can help them close that gap and unlock their goals faster…


If you’d like a copy of my ‘First Call Technique’ - a completely free resource to help you flow conversations in a discovery call <INSERT WHATEVER CTA YOU’D LIKE HERE—> button, email me with subject line X’ etc> → LINK TO RESOURCE https://docs.google.com/document/d/1PVQbliFd9BxKLbkGVXqcwESlSUw2VgQ7hyuzvjbe7a0/edit#


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