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Bad News (Client's Problems) Travels Twice as Fast as Good News

Unsatisfied wants are problems seeking solutions, not wants seeking solutions. "All investors (like customers) are motivated by two things: 1) Something to be gained (greed) and 2) Something to be lost. Studies show that fear of consequences is by far the greater motivator (3:1). Too many advisers are so intent on selling a product that they tune out or ignore the message of fear and uncertainty coming from a client. They are so intent on selling that they miss the sale," says Mitch Anthony.

The idea that bad news travels twice as fast as good news is very important to the idea of fear and loss. Why does this happen? Because bad news (problems) is emotionally charged. Sales people by nature are very optimistic, positive, outcome driven, forward thinking, future oriented and progress driven and many can't fathom bringing up anything negative. It goes against their nature. They want to build and create and not deconstruct. They don't want to break down problems and analyze risks.

The problem discovery process is a strategy of not forward motion, but one of moving backwards to the scene of the crime (customer's problems). The process of self-elimination, natural selection and weeding out customers who don't have meaningful problems, or don't have actionable problems can be perceived as risky by the uninitiated. The thinking goes if they don't have any problems they may not want my solution. Duh!

Sales people who are self-absorbed, company-centric, product-centric and who don't have the maturity and emotional intelligence of empathy and seeing the world from their customer's viewpoint resist this surgical process. They're too hell-bent on finding a need and filling a need to be bothered.

Most conventional sellers are generally so busy thinking of how to best advance their cause and agenda, put their best foot forward and positioning their offering in the best light. Yet finding, isolating and assessing your customer's problems require the opposite skill sets and goals; neutrality, being customer-centric, selling without self-interest and delving into the dark side of customer's problems. This can throw a lot of sales people off-center and is the main reason why it's not a very popular way of selling. Too bad!

Sales people are kept at arms length, locked out and not trusted in sales calls, because they don't do their due-diligence to find out what motivates their customers to change. "If you can concentrate more on what makes them feel inadequate, or their desire not to feel at the bottom, than their desire to be at the top or their desire to be valuable you'll find their motives much easier," says Tom Freese.

The following are motivators for change:

  • Success/Failure
  • Winning/Losing
  • Gaining/Missing
  • Prosperity/Suffering
  • Positives/Negatives
  • Opportunities/Threats
  • Strengths/Weaknesses
  • Abundance/Scarcity
  • Good/Bad

As you can probably guess the right column, which represents what customers want to avoid, is far stronger of an emotional motivator to change than the left column of opportunity and gain. As Sharon Drew Morgen says, "Look for undiscovered problems or accidents waiting to happen." Don't focus your time and effort on fixing the problem before you spend time addressing the causes, consequences and the costs, because all problems are relative.

Problems are investments and customers will continue to invest in them until they no longer see value. So don't try to solve problems from the level of the problem, because you'll likely end up focusing on the positive outcomes your customer will enjoy in the future and neglect the root causes.

Problems don't exist in isolation or in a vacuum. All problems have interconnecting points to other issues. If you fix one problem that's bound to impact another part of the organization, good or bad. "There is no way that you, as a seller who is outside the decision-making body can really know what is going on with your prospects," says Sharon Drew Morgen. Moreover, there's no way you can fully understand how your prospects are prioritizing their problems, and there's no way in the world you'll know in advance what their personal stakes are, or what their personal interpretations are.

So come to the sales call with a clean slate, seeking to understand before being understood, zero expectations and the mindset that the customer has no problems until proven otherwise. This will really force you to do your due diligence.

Richard Farrell is President of Tangent Knowledge Systems, a national sales development and training firm based in Chicago. He is the author of the upcoming book Selling has Nothing to do with Selling. He trains and speaks around the world and has authored many articles on his unique non-selling sales posture.

Phone: 773-404-7915
EMail: rfarrell@tangentknowledge.com
Web: http://www.tangentknowledge.com