This is something I learned a long time ago from the folks at Corporate Visions. Often we get really tough questions that can trip us up during a demo or presentation. By using a technique known as “Re-framing” (it comes from NLP) you can take the edge off of tough questions and often turn them in your favor. The core of the concept is to carefully consider the point of view of the question before you answer it. Then, during that pause, you can make sure to frame your response in a way that better addresses the question.
For example, let’s say you get the following question,”I did not see any way to extend your application using Java. Can you use Java to extend your application?”. You could answer this question with a straight technical response (“Yes, we provide several Java APIs as well as Web Services…”) or you could take it as an opportunity to reframe the question. By first pausing for a moment to think about your response and then asking a clarifying question such as,”Can you give me an example of how you might want to use Java to extend our application?”) you can make sure you are using the right frame-of-reference in your response. API’s and Integration may not be the answer they are looking for. Perhaps they are a Java junkie and just want to know their skills will be of use. Perhaps they have been told your application is Java dependent and prefer a .NET approach. But if you don’t clarify the question you won’t know their frame-of-reference.
After you ask for clarification you need to decide how you will frame your response. If the original question sounded technical (“Java?”) but really was emotional (“Java vs. .NET”) then you need to frame your response accordingly. You can turn potential pitfalls into benefits as long as you understand where the prospect is coming from. Stepping outside of your gut reaction to the question (“Oh no, not that question!”) and making sure you fully understand the prospects frame of reference can make all the difference.