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Shifting Our Perspective: Who Has the Problem We Solve?

By: Dave Brock



Sometimes I talk to frustrated sales people: “All you say is we’ve got to give the customers Insight, we have to focus on solving their problems. But my manager is beating me up on what I’m selling! How can I spend time solving the customers’ problems if I’m not selling our products and services?”

It’s a great concern! Our job is to sell our products and solutions. It is to create and grow the revenue for our companies. We can’t lose focus on that. The real issue, however, is, “Are we focusing on customers who have the problems we can solve?”
We sell nothing until we find a customer that has a problem we can solve and who wants to solve that problem. Our mistake, too often, is that we aren’t focusing on those customers.
  • We call on customers who don’t have the problems we solve, pitching our products and wondering why they aren’t interested.
  • We call on customers who have problems, but they aren’t the problems we solve—or there are others that have far superior solutions.
  • We call on customers who have the problems we solve, but they don’t know they have the problem or they haven’t prioritized it. (Some of the jargon is these are “latent problems.”)

We struggle to find customers who want to consider buying our products and services. We keep calling until a customer says, “Yes, I have that problem.” But by that time, they may be well along in their buying cycle. Our ability to work with them in defining the problem, shaping the solution, and influencing their purchase decision is very limited.

Yet we continue email campaign after email campaign, telephone call after telephone call, meeting after meeting trying to find a customer who wants to buy our products.
It seems things would be so much simpler if we just shifted our perspective a little. Rather than finding customers who want to buy our products, services, and solutions ;why don’t we look for customers who have the problems we can solve?
What if we focus all our prospecting on just determining if the customer has that problem? The customer may have an inkling of the problem—performance issues, rising costs, lost customers, lost revenue. They may not recognize they have the problem, we have to help make them aware of it and create urgency to solving the problems.
What if we stopped trying to find customers to buy our products and solutions? What if we stopped spending time with people who don’t have the problems we solve? What if we simply spend 100% of our time finding and working with customers who have problems we solve? The subtle shift from finding customers who are interested in buying our products or solutions to finding customers who have problems we can solve and want to solve those problems changes everything.
This shift changes our “messaging.” It changes our prospecting. Rather than solution selling, we focus on problem finding.
It changes the very first conversation we ever have. Our very first conversation is about the customer and the problem. It is never about the product or the solution, it focuses purely on the problem and it’s impact on the customer.
This shift changes the results we produce. Once the customer has a problem they have to solve, we have the solution to that problem.
Customers want to talk about their problems (recognized or latent). Customers want to learn how to solve their problems. Customers want to talk to people who can help them solve their problems.
The shift in perspective is small, but its impact on our results is profound. Stop looking for people to sell your products, services, and solutions to. Look for the people who have the problems you solve.
This article was originally published by Partners in Excellence
Published: August 5, 2013

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Dave Brock

Dave Brock is the founder of Partners in EXCELLENCE, a consulting and services company helping to improve the effectiveness of business professionals with strategy development, organizational planning, and implementation. Dave has spent his career working for and with high performance organizations, ranging from the Fortune 25 to startups, including companies such as IBM, HP, Nokia, AT&T, Microsoft, General Electric, and many, many more. The work Dave does with business strategies is closely tied to personal effectiveness of the people in the organization. As a result, Dave is deeply involved in the development of a number of training and coaching programs.

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