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Show Me the Problem!

You measure a customer's fit not on how you can help them, but on why they need help, and what they have to lose if they do not get it. If the customer has no hurt, you will be in a world of hurt. So discuss headaches before relief.

No one can argue that the reason for being for all companies is to sell solutions to solve problems. Yet information sellers are fixated on solutions, not problems – which is the driving force for action and change.

90% of sales people can more than competently articulate how they can provide solutions, woefully few can eloquently articulate customer's problems.

You have to respect the customer's problems before you can expect them to respect your solution. Conventional sales people too often steal the show, try to crash the party and make it all about them, their product and their company.

Ironically, for a positive, customer, buying experience to occur, you need to talk about the negative, customer experiences they have had about their problems.

Focus more on critical risk factors, than critical success factors. Psychological biases influence decision-making in all walks of life. Loss aversion, the tendency for people to care more about avoiding a loss than making a similar size gain is rife among even the greatest of achievers.

"Tiger Woods is more likely to hole a putt if it is to save par (in golf, an over-par hole feels like failure), than if he had the identical putt to make a birdie (a gain). This is because he tries harder to avoid the loss than he does to make the gain. That makes no sense – the score versus par on an individual hole is not what matters in golf. Each putt counts exactly the same yet players treat them differently," says David Beniot.

The agony of defeat will trump the thrill of victory when it comes to customers taking action. Traditional sales people intensely labor to prove their self-worth, their product and their solution. Problem-centric sales people labor to disprove the status quo, and then labor diligently to get the customer to prove to themselves their tolerance to live with their challenges and issues. If they have a high tolerance to live with their problems, you have very little to sell.

What the customer is not achieving is what is important. Customers jazzed about their problems carries more weight than customers jazzed about your products. Sales people use their product description as a noun (here's what it does), instead of a verb (here are the problems it addresses and resolves).

What a product is, is not nearly as important as what it helps to avoid and get rid of. Classic sales people overestimate their power and the importance to have customers understand their solution and be true coverts, and underestimate the importance of the customer to fully understand the value of their problems.

The less of a compelling story (problems) the customer has, the more they will want your information to sit on and do nothing with. When they truly have problems, the more inclined they will want you to have a lot of information and expertise on their issues and challenges, assuming they trust you and value your insight. For most sales people, their greatest asset is their greatest liability. They use their information to solve problems that they have no concrete evidence of.

Steve Jobs was noted for saying, "People do not know what they want until you show it to them." The same is often the case with problems. Customers do not know what problems they have until you describe and outline what those hypothetical problems are. What will catch the attention of a typical Monday morning manager is the most pressing risks facing them that day, not the most pressing rewards. When you outline customer's problems with unique messaging you are hoping to dig into their true sense of false security. Outlining possible rewards is a long and hard road comparable to shooting skeet in the dark.

Richard Farrell is President of Tangent Knowledge Systems, a national sales development and training firm based in Chicago. He is the author of the upcoming book Selling has Nothing to do with Selling. He trains and speaks around the world and has authored many articles on his unique non-selling sales posture.

Phone: 773-404-7915
EMail: rfarrell@tangentknowledge.com
Web: http://www.tangentknowledge.com