No problems No Connection, No Connection No Emotion, No Emotion No Sale
Behavioral scientist, Abraham Maslow proved in his research that people will move faster away from problems, fears, and loss than they'll move towards growth, success, opportunity and gain. Basically customers hate to lose more than they love to win. So position your offering to the real motivations of why customers change and buy. Customers are far more concerned with stemming losses than they're in pursuing growth. Unfortunately, most sales people sell the exact opposite way.
Think of it this way; if the customer had no problems whatsoever, there would be no need for gain. There's truly nothing to desire or to seek if all is considered perfect and hunky-dory. All needs for your customer to look to the future is a direct link and attachment to the past. Where there's an attachment to the past you can be assured problems are lying in its wake.
If the customer has no problems you have very little to sell. "Without problems there're no solutions. Without solutions, it's extremely difficult to create value," says John Hirth. Therefore, if your customer has no problems, or isn't willing to openly discuss problems, then you essentially have nothing to sell beyond an off the shelf commodity. Have fun with that one!
Your "unique value proposition" shouldn't translate to how you can enhance and improve, but how you can diminish, reduce and eliminate problems, because until problems have been fully recognized by your customer, the solution will be difficult for them to accept and act upon. Also, for a lot of customers, it's essential that they find out what they don't want before they're ready to know what they do want.
A great industrialists in the 1940s once said that in factories companies make products, but out on the street sales people sell problem relief and problem alleviation. Your problem proposition should be centered around the idea of what problems do your customers have that they'll pay to get rid of that my offering solves. If they don't admit to any problems your last hope is to agitate the waters to uncover, trigger or to incite problems proactively.
If you can't be a troubleshooter then your last resort is to be a troublemaker. In a quiet and respectful manner, cross the line and point out where the "hidden bodies" are in their business and elaborate on problems that they may not be aware of, or hesitant to admit. Your goal is to basically "rain on their parade."
If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it make a sound? This Zen koan is relevant to sales problems because if the customer doesn't vocally admit to their problems then for all intents and purposes they don't have any problems and you have very little to sell other than price.
All customers of all sizes, in all industries, in all parts of the country, in all phases of their growth, experience a lot of the same business problems. However, they come in different forms. You'll find most business problems are quite universal and once you understand your product's niches and nuances you can develop a broad problem strategy for your vertical markets. Specifically, you can also look for trigger events in any industry that're ripe for problems and frustrations.
Sales people who can help customers solve problems are a dime a dozen today. Sales people who can help customers find hidden problems and look at their strategies differently are priceless. Even behind every satisfied need is a possible dark cloud. All positive occurrences come with a price. Customers predictably and invariably experience some sort of negative consequence in any gain situation.
For example; zero turnover of staff becomes a problem when underperforming employees never leave and a company has a staff with no new blood and new ideas. Another example, is a company that has a veteran, tenured and experienced sales team. The cost of that positive situation is lack of new business development resulting in stunted growth because their sales people are living off past successes because they aren't prospecting enough. "For everything you gain you lose something," said Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Customers convince and sell themselves more by the depth of their emotions than by the height of their logic. According to Richard Russell; "We aren't thinking machines we're feeling machines that think." Without emotion we would be incapable of making decisions. So we actually think by feeling. "The evaluative channel operates without even a pretense of objectivity," says Peter Schezgal.
Our objective and logical decisions are in fact very biased. When customers make buying decisions they tap into the emotional part of their brain even when the task is logical and intellectual. Customers buy hope not facts and logic. Trust and problems are two very strong emotions sales people need to trigger. Don't waste a moment bemoaning the notion your customer is clueless and just doesn't get it. It's irrelevant. They aren't clueless in many cases. We're clueless in thinking things are neat and logical. Things are messy, irrational and emotional. Thank your lucky stars for that. If they weren't, you'd be out of a job and profession.