To Change, Customers Must
Experience Their Problems Emotionally
Customers are no different than individuals when it comes to personal behavior. They seek pleasure, advantages, growth, opportunity and success because they don't want to feel and experience the frustration of not getting what they want. We are all the same in that way. We care more about not getting what we don't want (problems), than we do care ultimately about getting what we do want (opportunities and growth).
The more customers are willing to settle, be complacent and come to terms with their problems, the less likely they'll be willing to openly discuss them and take action. According to the Brooks Group, only 2% of customers reveal their wants to sales people. So make no mistake, it isn't an easy endeavor.
Customers can be reluctant to reveal what they don't want since it's usually below the surface and is very personal for them. Wants are hard to uncover because they aren't product specific.
Sales people should focus more on what customers want to avoid than what they want to gain. This becomes a challenge because the customer's predominant ego state is controlling the status quo, security oriented, whatever is familiar and constantly being in a state of resisting the unknown. To move them off their mark you need to attempt to undermine their false sense of security.
Your marching orders in finding your customer's problems is to have a "wake up" call for them. Position your offering for the problems it solves, not what it does, or what it can accomplish. Avoid using the word "problem" because of the obvious negative connotations. Replace it with less assertive versions such as issues, concerns, frustrations, limitations, challenges, barriers and obstacles. One is far easier to admit than the other. Many customers are uncomfortable talking about their problems, but will be open to talking about their imperfections.
Beware of customers who have so suppressed their problems that they no longer can recognize them even if it hit them squarely in the face. Many customers live in a cloistered environment where they're in a survival culture, instead of a learning and growing culture. Their problems are simply unrecognizable and therefore will not be acted upon. If they aren't willing to step back and examine their problems and openly discuss them then the status quo will more than likely rule. If your customer isn't willing to roll up their sleeves and take a long hard look at themselves and their organization, change is probably not in the cards.
Be careful as you go through this process not to make the mistake of being an authority for your customer. The problem evaluation process works well when you help your customer to look deeply at their problems independently, and you give them the freedom to decide for themselves if they have reached a threshold where they have suffered enough.
The trusted advisor and objective sales person doesn't make decisions for their customer unless it's crystal-clear that the customer wants them to, and only after they've exhausted all other question options.
Conventional sales people make the fatal mistake of addressing and fixing customer's problems before they dealt with the thinking, feelings and emotions behind the problems. If you really are intent on helping your customers resolve their problems, you'd be not as much concerned about helping them get rid of their problems, but rather first dealing with getting rid of the thought system that created them.
When customers compensate for their problems they make them chronic. The sales person needs to show the customer the pros and cons of their actions without making them wrong in the process. This way they can deal with the real problem, not just symptoms.
Your customer's willingness to feel and re-experience their problems on an emotional basis will be a strong indicator that they have processed the information and are willing to take the next step to consider whether they should act on it or not. Appealing to their "thinking mind " has limitations. Customers tend to speak in logical and rational language to avoid the problems of the past. The more they intellectualize their problems the further they'll get from solving them. Customers buy emotionally and unfortunately sales people are trying to sell them logically and rationally.