An Ounce of Prevention
is Worth More Than a Pound of Cure
Focus on exploring and evaluating customer's experiences (problems) in the past, instead of trying to control the customer's future experience...buying. When you do this you're in a high credibility and high trust zone.
Your objective is to expose problems not to enlighten with solutions. Depth of product knowledge without diagnostic skills to find and evaluate problems is worth very little. Use your expertise and your knowledge to prompt discussion of possible problems, not to push product. Domain knowledge minus troubleshooting and trouble finding is a dime a dozen in the marketplace.
When you can't reach an agreement, middle ground or consensus about potential problems, sometimes it's worth trying to be the opposite of a protagonist and be an antagonist. Don't be afraid to polarize, especially if you do it in a respectful and professional manner.
Sometimes you need to wake up someone to get them out of their comfort zone and to see the ugly side of their possible hypothetical problems. This is best accomplished by asking tough, thought provoking questions that will emote frustrating challenges that you have a fairly good idea they're experiencing.
Ultimately you have to answer the only question that matters most for customers... why should I care? This is a tall order when you meet someone for the first time and they aren't forthcoming with sensitive and important information about their possible problems. Which is by the way very common. Most sales people will pump and dump at this stage because they can't resist the seduction of selling. Problem-centric sales people will calmly and objectively list out the four most common challenges a customer would have to have in order for them to have any further interest.
This no fuss no muss strategy is very credible because it has very little to prove and very little to disprove. The proof of the pudding is almost always with whether the customer has any compelling challenges, risks and liabilities. Remember, by definition it's impossible to provide a solution without understanding what the customer's problem is.
Product exceptionalism is the rallying call for information sellers and in many cases the kiss of death. But, it's problem exceptionalism that really carries the day as to whether a customer will even consider the possibility of changing and taking a different direction. Be aware if you appear too opportunistic in exploiting their problems you'll find yourself way outside the credibility zone. So always proceed with caution with light ammunition and arms.
You need to tear down the customer's problem before you can build up your solution. Very little good news can come to a sales person until they first understand the bad news coming from the customer regarding their challenges and issues. Until the customer is vocalizing their problems you have very few if any practical answers or options.
If you lived by the tenet that most businesses are consumed daily by overcoming problems and tackling their biggest obstacles, and not capitalizing on opportunities, you'd be way ahead of 95% of other sales people. Always remember an ounce of prevention (problems) is worth more than a pound of cure (solution).