Convince Clients of What is Wrong, Before You Convince Them of What is Right
The problem-centric sales person knows that selling is a process of elimination since all customers essentially experience varying forms of the same problems. However, all customers experience and feel them differently. Your job is to find their unique experience.
When customers have the potential of future problems, you are essentially doing loss prevention and risk management. Basically your run into three different scenarios; active problems; problems are known and active before you showed up. Latent problems; they know it, they are just postponing it. Potential future problems; unknown future problems that they are not aware of. In all these cases you play to their fears and insecurities, instead of their hopes and dreams. Mainstream sales people position for hopes and dreams because it fits perfectly into their favorite topic in the world; me, myself and I (solution).
"Ever hear the expression I feel your problems? In other words, I am empathetic to your situation. Empathy is the ability to see into another's situation, and see things from their perspective," says Coleen Stanley.
The problem is most sales people do not get the chance to demonstrate empathy because they do not get their customers into an emotional state. They do not utilize the right questions to prompt the state and they lose out on both ends. Most sales people show up at a sales call naïvely unaware that they have to create a lot of trust and respect to be able to engage their customers emotionally with empathy so that they are able to effectively uncover pressing threats, risks, problems and challenges.
"There is always an inner battle between our rational intellect, our emotional being, and the compass of ideals that guide us through life. In essence our heart pulls us in the opposite direction from our intellect," says Steve Martini. To emotionally engage your customer, help them look inward, because most of their decisions are independent of a reasoning process.
Most traditional sales people focus exclusively on helping their customers look outward and forward for the simple reason that they hope customers will focus exclusively on their product information and solution. But unfortunately, we all know that it is not about the solution or the product. It is all about the customer and their challenges.
For customers, fixing their problems are a means to an end. The "means" is the fixing of their problem, and the "end" is the emotional feeling they get with the elimination and lifting of their problem. The emotional feeling trumps the importance of the actual resolution of the physical problem.
We now have a better understanding of why customers are so irrational in their decisions. Heck...so are sales people. No one is excluded. This is why offerings must be positioned emotionally, and why the customer's circumstances and situation plays such a pivotal role in the influencing of change.
Because so many decisions are so emotionally charged, it is best for sales people to play a subtle and indirect role in guiding customers to their answers, instead of a more forceful and pushing strategy. It is human nature that the customer's ego wants to want more than it wants to have. Satisfying the emotional want is more important than satisfying the rational, actual solution. Because solutions are rational they are not as effective of a tool to deeply engage customers with emotionally charged problems.
Be aware that customers are no different than anyone else. Their ambitions become the means to which they can run from, hide and cover up their problems. The more successful they become, the reasoning goes, the more their problems become covered up or become less significant. This is the case with corporations and individuals alike. It is the nature of the beast. Once you understand this you really change your sales orientation.
It is difficult to talk about the customer's future solution until you have thoroughly reconciled their past problems. Customers look to the future to right the past, to make up for the gains they were denied in the past. All goals for growth and improvement are a direct reflection and projection of the past.
So why is 99.86% of sales messaging, positioning and presentations fixated on the future? I think the answer is sales people do not like to get their hands dirty taking customers back to the original scene of the crime (problems). They want to jump to the solution as fast as possible because it gives them a sense of being in charge. Moreover, traditional sales people also like to sell with enthusiasm, vigor, excitement and have the focus on them, and the problems of their customer just do not factor into their self-serving agenda.