Tear Down Your Customer's Problems
Before You Build up Your Solution
Conventional sales people can't take the good with the bad. In sales you have to strike a balance to provide the good (solution) only after you've spent the majority of your time listening to the bad (customer's problems). This problem-centric sales strategy is a fresh take on an old idea.
Back in the 1980's IBM reverse engineered the classic Xerox feature and benefit sales model to FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt). Their salesforce made huge gains in embracing this problem-centric sales strategy that was more effective and valuable than mainstream product pitching.
Problem-centric selling is a transition from a unique value proposition to a unique problem proposition. It's a process of stress and release at the same time. It's the discomfort of exploring problems, but it's the relief of having a neutral advisor finally listening to customers and understanding their problems. You need to walk a mile in your customer's shoes, then walk another couple of miles in their problems.
The problem-centric strategy is an uncompromising quest to help customers look at their business and challenges differently. I have sales training customers who are truly passionate about their company, industry and service. But their passion is a one-way street. It stymies instead of engages. Their uncompromising passion stops with their offering and doesn't provide balance with the down and dirty work of cutting their teeth with problem identification and assessment.
Information sellers always assign a meaning and value to their product that is always good regardless of the customer's situation. Yet their product really functions primarily as a tool to avoid or get rid of problems. That's its reason for being (raison d'être as the French would say).
Solutions only exists to solve problems. However, information sales people (product pushers) will invariably go on their merry way touting all the good and never discussing the bad (customer's problems). This goes against basic human instincts and the model for our entire business culture which is fueled by going from bad to good, and then rounding the corner to hopefully finish by going from good to great. And keep it there by anticipating threats, risks and liabilities. It's a constant uphill battle for improvement to escape barriers to success.
Customers will anguish over and burn up more emotional energy to avoid being wrong than they will being right. They love to be right so they can avoid being wrong. They'll run twice as fast to avoid a threat than they will to gain an opportunity. In the customer's decision process want and desire is subordinate to the need to rid, eradicate and eliminate. The beauty of this process is when you make it incumbent upon the customer to prove the value of what they want to get rid of or eliminate, it takes all the "salesy" out of sales.
Find the reason for your customer's problems, then find the emotional and visceral reasoning. Unconscious thought is faster and more efficient than conscious thought. This is why customers rely on their intuition and their gut, and most aren't even aware of it. "We're all emotional and intuitive beings, despite our best efforts to be rational," says Marty Neumier.
What causes so often for customers to delay action is their crystal-clear logic conflicts with emotional confusion. This is why it's so important to get to the root of customer's emotional problems. "We are not only irrational, but predictably irrational. This irrationality happens the same way again and again," says Dan Graiely.
Once you come to terms with the emotional and irrationality of all customers it takes a lot of the frustration and mystery out of the sales profession. The fine line in the problem-centric strategy is to find inadequacies in your customers businesses without triggering personal inadequacies.