If it Bleeds it Leads in Sales
Problems are like icebergs. Only one fourth are visible and three fourths are hidden. So often customers don't feel they have problems because they're so well hidden.
What customers do so often is they build defense mechanisms and elaborate justifications, and overcompensate for them in other areas so it looks as if it's been fixed or doesn't exist.
Understand what customers can't control but want to, then you'll have a very good chance to get to the root of their problems. So you need to tread lightly and patiently so you don't upset their fragile equilibrium and their need to be right.
Don't have a myopic or narrow focus of just finding your customer's problems. "As a business resource, it should be your goal to view the customer's business more from the vantage point of its CEO than from that of your day-to-day contacts. Shifting your perspective enables you to put your solution, and the business problem it solves, into that much broader context of the customer's entire business picture," says Jerry Stapleton.
Each problem should be evaluated and assessed by the tenure of the problem, the degree, the costs, the actionability, how it's impacting the organization, how much longer they can live with it, what courses of action they have taken to rectify and their commitment to fix it.
If your customer isn't opening up by sharing their problems, you're goal is to professionally and with care proactively provoke, incite, arouse, expose and trigger the problems you know they're in denial about. This problem prompter strategy enlists and exploits every raw unresolved emotion that the customer may be experiencing in its cause. Keep in mind that the most raw emotions that they'll be experiencing will be centered around the idea that customers hate to lose more than they love to win.
Since customers aren't sitting around all day waiting for your call to talk about their problems, worse yet waiting for you to sell them solutions they can't live without, you better be well prepared to engage them on matters that expose acute problems, bottom line threats, hidden problems, risks and potential impending dangers. You should know in advance what typical and universal problems customer experience in your industry that your solution solves.
Customers frequently misidentify problems and their causes. The role of the sales person is to cut through the denials and falsities of their customer. You essentially confront them in a nurturing and professional way with a new reality by challenging and uprooting their prevailing point of view.
The way you do this is through "wake up call" questions, or sweat questions that emotionally address what's being neglected and being ineffectively hindered by standard operating procedures, status quo systems and prevailing processes. Just like in the news paper industry, your goal should be if it bleeds it leads.
To be able to effectively execute these problem killer questions it's very helpful to see life as a journey of learning and have a broad range of customers, industries, business applications and business models to draw upon to help customers detect lost opportunities and overlooked problems. These questions will require a lot of trust for the customer to share doubts, insecurities and uncertainties. You should never run out of material with these questions. There's a lot more fear in companies regarding their liabilities and weaknesses than optimism with their assets and positives.
If your customer lacks nothing, they will have no need for gain. If they have no problems, you essentially have very little to sell. Your ability to deeply engage customers on a meaningful level in discussing threats, risks and uncertainties will be your calling card, your value proposition, and your currency in the new economy.