Predictive Dialog—The Art of Thinking Ahead

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Many people know how to play checkers. Fewer folks know how to play chess. Checkers is a game that requires a player to think only one move ahead. Chess, on the other hand, requires thinking five moves ahead.

Pro-active communication is another form of thinking ahead, a good overall strategy when solving problems.

Most of us would be financially better off today, if we had thought ahead and developed the habit of using a single debit card instead of multiple credit cards.

If you have an emergency kit for your home, you are thinking ahead. If you have an extra flashlight and extra batteries for the extra flashlight, you are really thinking ahead.

Heart disease is the number one killer today. To a great extent, this condition is preventable by eating good food and getting regular exercise. In this case, thinking five moves ahead and can save your life.

A while back, I needed a way to explain and demonstrate success scripts in my keynotes and seminars, so I invented a concept I call, “Predictive Dialog.” Predictive Dialog is the art of taking a conversation where you want it to go.

Predictive Dialog is not about manipulation, which is often associated with domination. Rather, Predictive Dialog is strategic. It is not about controlling the conversation for your personal benefit as much as it is about influencing the conversation for the benefit of both parties.

We engage in predictable conversation all day long about a variety of issues including sports, weather, traffic, and personal health. But Predictive Dialog is a more purposeful form of conversation. If you’ve heard of Peter Drucker’s “management by objective,” it may be helpful to think of Predictive Dialog as “conversation by objective.”

A simple example of Predictive Dialog is known as the Law of Reciprocity. For instance, if I greet you by saying, “Good morning,” you will probably respond in kind. If I ask you what you did over the weekend, you are likely to inquire about my weekend, and so on.

These types of interchanges are common. But what happens when a pro-active communicator initiates dialog in a more purposeful manner?

For example, a mother of a six-year-old might find herself in an argument by insisting that the kid wear a jacket when leaving the house.

Mom: Junior, wear your coat.

Junior: I don’t want to.

Mom: I said, “Wear your coat.”

Junior: No!

By using Predictive Dialog, however, the conversation becomes more strategic and can turn out better for both parties. You can use this technique at home:

Mom:  Junior, would you like to wear your jacket or carry it?

Son:  Huh?  I, er . . . oh, I’ll wear it, I guess.

Predictive Dialog can also be very effective as a selling tool:

Seller:  Mr. Prospect, do you prefer the black model or the brown model.

Notice how the question is phrased in such a way that the prospect is inclined to prefer one of these two models over no model.

One of the best ways for a salesperson to win business from another vendor is to identify the competition’s weakness and then offer something better. Use Predictive Dialog to get this done in a hurry:

Seller: What do you like least about your current vendor?

Buyer: Well, he’s often out of stock and late with delivery.

Seller: If I can match quality and price and improve delivery, would you give my company a try?

In the above example, the prospect may love their current vendor, but that isn’t the question, is it?

Such is the power of Predictive Dialog and the power of thinking ahead.

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