Beware of Clients Who are Comfortably Uncomfortable
Some traditional sales people have jumped on the problem-solving bandwagon, but they are solving the wrong problem often and they are doing themselves more harm than good. They are creating more confusion and ill will than they bargained for with their well intended selling strategy.
Problem identification, problem isolation, problem appraisal, and analysis makes up 90% of the problem puzzle, and problem fixing is only 10%. It is comparable to the old 80/20 rule, but off by 10% points.
Mainstream sales people do the flip. When you spend 90% of your time exploring the beauty of your fix you will open yourself up to 90% more challenges, denials and resistance. So do the old KISS model (keep it simple stupid).
Warning; When you keep it simple your ego does not feel it is getting its personal needs met (the fix), so you junk your good questions for the quick fix (solution to the problem). "After you have identified the problem, you should not get anywhere near the solution. You must study the problem from every angle and question everything," says Rob Jolles.
First, you find a clink in their armor to get your customer to share information. Secondly, you then must find a clink in their armor in regards to their problems. So often customers do not know the best way to tackle their issues, assess their importance, asssign their priority, balance competing issues, determine accountability and timing, and appraise political risks of change.
"The true answer to any problem is never apart from the problem," said Krishnamurti. What that really means is if you really want to have a customer fix the real problem you must be certain you do not deal with symptoms. The real reason customers never solve some of their fundamental problems is they never deeply investigate them. They are too busy trying to solve them superficially. So the answers are in the problem not the solution.
"Sales people so often simply see what they are selling as a mere product or service, when, in fact, what they are selling could require a whole new inventory management system, an overhauled billing system, a different distribution model, representing a radical departure from an existing philosophy of business for the prospect, or even more. Change and sales do not exist in a void," says Bill Brooks. So be practical and objective in your perspective, and recognize any complex solution is a threat, an inconvenience and will generate resistance.
Chronic problems that customers have avoided over the years, or have given up any realistic hope for resolution in many cases are considered normal, and are factored mentally into their cost of doing business, resulting in customers simply managing around them (coping mechanism). They basically are compensating for it in other areas, or just learning to live with it. In cases like this sales people have to balance delivering hope and concentrating on demonstrating more serious and deeper consequences than the customer thought possible. You have to expand their insecurity. Ask them what they want to achieve, and then ask them realistically how confident are they in achieving their goals with existing contingencies. Also, ask them what would have to happen to their plans to be considered a failure. Often when customers have invested so much into compensating for their problems they have become so chronic that they no longer recognize it, and it is usually beyond hope for change.
If your customer is not taking personal responsibility and ownership of their issues, it is unlikely they will take personal responsibility to fix them; no responsibility, no change. As soon as your customer is willing to take personal responsibility for their problems, they can then begin the process of objectively deciding what they want to do about them.
Keep in mind their need to control is an indicator of fear. The customer with a real need for controlling a problem will be a better candidate for change than the customer with a problem that they have very little need to control it.
"When the impact (problem) is big, ask for constraints. When the impact (problem) is small, take away the solution to see what happens," says Bill Caskey. Let the customer defend their reasons to change or not. When you do so you will typically get to the truth easier.
Are your customers explicit in their concern for their problems, or are you just putting words in their mouth? Are they just passive, casual and noncommittal? Too many customers have a genuine, authentic and sincere interest to address their problems, but have a passive, casual, idle and indifferent reason to act on it. In other words they are comfortably uncomfortable.
Sales people are farsighted when they do not uncover the proof of the impact of their customer's problems, the ramifications, the root causes and the "actionability." John Kennedy said, "The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining." Do not count on this as a practical motivator for your customers. It is more likely when the problem becomes unmanageable is when the roof will be fixed.