Can the Socratic Method Help You Sell Copiers?

“I cannot teach anybody anything; I can only make them think.”Socrates

The world is full of advice. Our little industry is chock full of articles, studies, trade shows, blogs, podcasts, and analyst reports — not to mention more marketing materials than you can shake a stick at.

In fact, there are so many marketing materials it is difficult for prospects to sift through. Combine this with the day-to-day business stresses, and it is almost impossible for you to distill data streams into relevant information. The same goes for your prospects. How can you learn to do so and help your prospects do the same?  It is a daunting task, but one that separates you from the rest of the selling pack.

So, this is my idea – I suggest you employ the Socratic Method as a foundational philosophy.

I know what you’re asking. “How the heck can the Socratic Method help me sell more copiers?” Good question.

The Socratic method is a way of thinking and using probing questions to stimulate thought, expose assumptions, and reveal deeper insights.

This is not just a tool for philosophers; it’s a practical and powerful approach that will significantly enhance your business acumen and selling process.

 Here’s how:

  1. Critical thinking and decision making: Few think beyond a spreadsheet when making business decisions. As an office technology salesperson, you owe it to your clients to continuously question assumptions and analyze evidence; you develop a habit of thinking critically about everything, including your sales strategies, products, and market trends. This enhances your decision-making skills, enabling you to make better choices that can improve your sales performance.
  2. Understanding your customers: Prospects appreciate you more when you don’t just push the latest A3 or production unit but strive to understand their needs. When you apply the Socratic method to customer interactions, you uncover hidden needs, allowing you to provide solutions that truly add value. As you know, this not only increases sales but also fosters customer loyalty and repeat business.
  3. Competitive advantage: Today, this is particularly important. Using the Socratic method helps you to digest a wide array of information from all the podcasts, analyst reports, and bloviations and filter out noise, helping you to stay abreast of industry trends and your competitors’ strategies. This leads to a competitive edge as you anticipate shifts in office technology and advise your customers’ strategies accordingly.
  4. Improving communication skills: The up-front selling method is all about asking questions and engaging in thoughtful dialogue as a trusted advisor. Regularly practicing this method can significantly improve your communication skills, making you a better listener, a more persuasive speaker, and a great business partner
  5. Adapting to change: Of all the times in history, this period is the most turbulent in the business world. The Socratic method encourages constant questioning and learning, fostering an adaptive mindset. This is valuable as the ability to adapt to changing customer needs and market conditions is crucial for success.

Incorporating the Socratic method in your sales approach

To reap these benefits, you must consistently apply the Socratic method in your daily work. Here’s how:

  1. During sales meetings: Pose questions such as, “What are the underlying assumptions behind this strategy?” or “How would this data look if we considered a different perspective?” This approach will not only enhance your understanding but also foster a culture of critical thinking within your team.
  2. When interacting with customers: Instead of pushing “feeds and speeds,” ask prospects piercing questions like, “What challenges are you currently facing in retaining and attracting employees?” or “How have you recovered from the global pandemic?” Use their responses to tailor your sales pitch to demonstrate how your products can address their specific needs.
  3. While consuming media content: Apply the Socratic method when reading or watching media content about your industry. Question the main points, evaluate the supporting evidence, and consider alternative viewpoints to develop a comprehensive understanding of the issues at hand. Delve further by investigating the sponsors: who is financing a study or who stands to gain from publishing on a particular platform? 

Instilling your sales game with the Socratic method isn’t just smart, it’s game-changing. This isn’t about memorizing product specs or slick sales lines; it’s about honing a razor-sharp acumen that slices through the fluff and gets to the heart of the matter.

By asking the right questions, you’ll peel back layers, revealing a deeper understanding of your customers than you ever thought possible. That’s right, you’ll be doing more than just “getting” your customers, you’ll be seeing the world through their eyes. This is the kind of edge that sets you apart from the competition because not everyone’s doing it.

There’s more: by learning to question, you’re also learning to listen. And I mean really listen. Your communication skills will skyrocket, and you’ll find yourself connecting with customers on a whole new level.

In the end, you’re not just a salesperson, you are a forward-thinking industry expert. So, continue to ask, continue to think, and continue to learn. In this way, you’ll embody the spirit of Socrates, using his age-old wisdom to drive your modern sales success. Don’t just sell technology – sell understanding, sell value, and sell solutions. As Socrates would probably suggest, the rest will follow.

is an entrepreneur and founder of the notorious destination site TheDeathOfTheCopier, where he comments on all things imaging, the rise of managed services and the advance of business technology. A prolific writer and frequent speaker, Greg shares his passionate, unique – and often provocative – view of technology and people, addressing the impact of digital on 21st century business. His 2014 book, Death Of The Copier, offers a controversial summary of the early days of Managed Print Services and the not-so-distant future of the hard copy industry. Reach out to Greg at