Put Your Buyers Hat On and Take Your Seller Shoes Off
Selling is all about lowering the perception of risk for your customer to view change as possible, and then heightening the perceived risks of not changing. This discussion has very little to do with what you are selling.
Do not waste your time bringing up your "stupid product." Customers do not fear the unknown as much as they fear the loss of the known. They fear change even when it is obvious to all outside parties that it is for the best. Customers will run twice as fast to avoid a problem than they will to gain an opportunity. The customer's circumstances and situation will dictate change and action more so than the attributes of your offering.
Serious prospective customers who trust you want to see how smart, perceptive and caring you are in the problem discovery stage. They will give you leads and hints, and your job is to connect the dots and ask the correct sequence of questions that will get to their pending crisis, or uncover past and present unresolved problems. You need to avoid being exasperatingly logical in this process and at the same time avoid being emotional.
If you have a satisfied prospect you have no prospect at all. If you have a dissatisfied prospect, you are just scratching the surface of having a future customer. Bill Brooks of The Brooks Group says, "90% of sales people convene a sales discussion by having the customer define their desired outcome without first finding out even if they have an actionable problem and what the consequences are."
You need to find and determine the origin of the problem and then find out the cause and effect. The customer's future starts with the past. It is basic human nature for customers to be consumed by the past and to derive all their identity from it, and then to project it all into the future.
The past is the battleground to determine whether a customer changes, takes action or will buy. Problems are always found in the past. Most orthodox sales people position and sell their offering for the present and the future. They are working on the wrong side of the time equation.
Generally a gesture or an overture of compromise or good faith, and a non-opportunistic demonstration of common ground is necessary so that customers can feel comfortable and not vulnerable in opening up and sharing their problems. Customers do not like to open up Pandora's box without trust. So make sure you extend trust to get trust.
90% of customers have problems, but for a host of reasons they have decided to do nothing about them. Lots of times they do not want to disclose them because it brings up insecurities, fear and deep rooted inadequacies.
"Buyers tend to disguise their problems. The trouble is getting people to expose their problems. It's not easy to do. It's human nature to hide inner problems, first from oneself, and then from others. This is the function of denial, avoidance and suppression—mainly, to keep uncomfortable things from entering into human consciousness so one can escape actually feeling it," says Jim Bleach.
Buyers disguise their problems by withholding potentially highly charged and incriminating information. Sales people must learn to carefully and expertly penetrate layers of defenses, wholesale generalizations, half-truths and outright deceptions to get to the root cause and source of customer's problems.
Do not get in the trap of addressing and fixing external problems at the exclusion of looking at the internal realities and variables of your customer. You need to help your customer clear their head about their priorities, because so often they are between a rock and a hard place as to what to act upon and prioritize.
The despair of loss is rarely exceeded by the joy of gain. In other words, as Hal Thorsvig says, "One must find out and understand how the absence of your product will adversely affect the customer personally and professionally." Pursuing gain in lieu of analyzing loss will only cause you despair and frustration.
Sales people are guaranteed lifetime employment with generous compensation when using the problem-centric sales process. This process will not go out of style in our lifetime, because it requires superior empathy and interpersonal communication skill sets that are definitely lacking in conventional sellers. Moreover, as long as customers maintain their ego state of striving, perfecting and obsessing with improvement and progress there will always be a constant stream of problems and dissatisfactions associated with their issues.
Problem-centric selling will always be an enduring and sustainable sale strategy, because customers rarely solve the real underlying thinking that causes their problems to persist. Luckily for sales people, for every problem a customer solves, a new problem pops up to replace it. It is the nature of the evolution of progress.