Customers do not see reality, rather they pre-receive it. It is precast in concrete before they see it. Usually all they see is memory, the past, their beliefs and expectations. That is why it is so important in problem shooting to go very deep. "Most sales people (95%) stop at the first indication of a problem," says Brian Neale. Then they are quickly off to the races trying to solve a problem that they and their customer really do not know that much about.
All corporate resolution of problems are ultimately done for pure selfish reasons by your customer. To see the truth, to see reality, and to see things accurately from your customer's perspective, you have to figure their emotional investment in change and their own personal stake.
All problems are significant or insignificant relative to other problems and priorities. Find out what their other problems are, especially if it does not relate specifically to your application. Once you find what is broken, you need to break it again to get perspective. In other words, you need to reverse tracks to revisit the problem and break it down again so the customer can reevaluate it and reexperience it for its cost, impact, negative consequences and actionability. Remember, every sale has basic obstacles; no problem, no dough, no authority, no urgency, no trust, poor timing and fierce competing initiatives.
"I respect faith, but doubt is what gives you an education," said W. Mizner. Be a doubting Thomas. Act as if you were from Missouri (show me state). Do not take anything at face value. This is where you really bring value to the table. Question the customer's problems as to whether they are really actionable. Cover all your bases. Make sure you know what they have to gain or lose. "One half of knowing what you want is knowing what you must be willing to give up before you get it," said Sidney Howard. Customers will frequently claim they want to get rid of their problems, but in point of fact, they would not know how to live otherwise. The daily struggle is an elixir and puts them in their comfort zone. So tread lightly, do not be trigger-happy and do not jump to conclusions.
Conventional sales people are avid followers of the cult of positive thinking; always be positive, energized, excited and always look at things from the bright side. This is a great way to live your life, do not get me wrong. There is definitely a time and place for it in sales. However, when energized optimistic selling runs constantly through your veins it is very hard to transition from always look at things from a positive angle, to now problem shooting and dwelling on customer's insecurities. If you are going to be a trusted credible advisor, you are going to have to find a delicate balance. Most traditional information sellers rarely find this balance.
I recently had a training program with a company where one of its participants was very agitated with the selling strategy of positioning one's product to appeal to customer's problems and dissatisfactions. She thought it was disingenuous to bring up negatives in a sales call, especially if one is an upbeat positive person, which she stated she was. She wanted it to be all rosy and positive. She wanted to put a happy face on everything possible. She wanted to be Dr. Feel Good. This by the way is a very common sentiment. If sales people are to remain relevant and to be viewed like other professionals (doctors, accountants, lawyers, consultants), they will need to be problem shooters and problem solvers.
Conventional sales people have always been taught to be positive. They mistake this attitude adjustment with to always be focusing on positive outcomes, events and future successes. When you sell this way, you neglect to tap into your customer's premier sales motivation to change; fear, risk, liability and loss.
Sales people's conventional strategies typically only tap into this accidentally and with blind luck. They do not proactively build their sales strategy around triggering and provoking customer's emotions, feelings, sentiments, instincts and gut responses that drive the majority of sales. When you rely on the customer to do it themselves, and connect all the dots, you leave a lot of your sales success to luck and favorable timing. The downside is your sales cycles will be longer, costlier, have lower margins and will be more frustrating.
Troubleshooting is a process of natural selection or self-selection. You will attract and repel certain types of customers. From a percentage perspective, and sales is all about percentages, would you not want to professionally repel customers who demonstrate no real compelling reason to change, or are comfortably uncomfortable. The act of polarizing customers and not trying to be all things to all people makes good business sense. Do not try to force a square peg into a round hole.
We can learn an invaluable lesson from the media; "Popular media never met a potential apocalypse it didn't like," says Stan Levitt. Unfortunately, for most sales people you could safely say that this is not the case with them in dealing with customer's messy problems. They really shy away from anything that is a downer or negative. Too bad! They really miss out on an opportunity of building trust through deep understanding of someone's biggest vulnerabilities.