Can You Use Evan Davis Litmus Test To Classify Buyers

The always entertaining interviewer Evan Davis marked his Newsnight debut with a cosy chat with the PM. By cosy I mean to echo the delightful prose of telly reviewer Mark Lawson;

“…whereas (feared and in his long ago prime utterly brilliant predecessor Jeremy) Paxman brought to political journalism the tone of the anti-terrorist squad with a bombing suspect, Davis seemed to be aiming more for the atmosphere of a university entrance interview, trying to draw out a sense of the interests and personality of his first candidate, the prime minister.”

What struck me about his examination of David Cameron, was his three question litmus test.

He sought to determine whether he was a “moderniser or more socially conservative-with-a-small-c”.

The actual queries were thoughtful.

a) Should schools teach imperial or metric weights and measure

b) What did he think to a gay couple kissing in public

c) Which candidate was best for a UK pharma company; a brilliant Latvian, or average Brit

Cameron’s combined answers left our Ev none the wiser as to which label most applied.

I enjoyed watching the exchange.

And I definitely liked the idea of a litmus test.

When I was a lad I remember the blotting-style paper named after Mr Litmus. It duly changed colour to reveal where a liquid sat on the acid-neutral-alkaline scale. In a kind of red-green-blue manner if I recall correctly.

I wondered whether in the Sales sphere, this approach could identify a prospective buyer’s propensity to buy from me. I guess I’m looking for a ‘blue’ result. Who wants them to be acidic or neutral?

So what of an associated trio of litmuses? Or should that be Litmi?

First I thought of how I always encourage evoking domesticity with a prospect. How and what they buy away from the office can be hugely instructive. With this in mind, I quickly crafted a question for each of three key drivers; urgency, authority & value;

i) what do you do if you think a tile might be loose on your roof?

ii) who comes up with the holiday destinations at home?

iii) what was the most recent kitchen appliance you bought and what made it get chosen?

Now it’s pretty obvious that asking these questions, with the above forms of word, are not to be recommended. You’d need a completely solid relationship, and even then, they’re still a mite stilted and transparent. As part of objection handles in a ‘do nothing’, ‘the boss won’t wear this’ and ‘too expensive’ arena, then they are excellent gambits.

But the litmus idea started to motor.

I then thought about how you could deploy legit business angles to gently cajole insight into buying behaviour upon which you then act.

1 – who’s your biggest competitor (& why)?

2 – what’s your most important product?

3 – which customer closest lights the way your headed?

Now I’m getting warm.

Our equivalent of a political moderniser would be someone of action. A person that will make things happen. And a small-c conservative would be tied to the status quo.

Answers to the above would help show where the prospect likes to stand on such a scale. Whether they choose to act at all. What drives such action. And how close to our positioning they naturally lean.

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