Do Not Fill the Customer's Cup, Empty It
When your customer goes through the process of discovery and understanding of their business problems, they have a better chance to see the light (solution), than the actual searching for the final solution. Customer's comprehension of their problem will trump customer's comprehension of your solution. Customers desire alleviation and understanding of their problem more than they desire a solution.
Some sales people fancy themselves as problem identifiers and creators, but too often at best, they only solve the most obvious application problem. However, to do your customer proper justice, you have to look at their whole system, or business process, to see how it all fits together to get a real accurate snapshot of their issues. Your customer thinks for sure they have a problem with generating new accounts, yet their problem in reality is something entirely different like hiring. You will never really know until you dig deep into the discovery process.
If you have trust and respect, it is easier for you to discuss business problems because customers recognize and connect easier with what they do not want, more than what they do want. Also, having a conversation with customers about what they do not want does not demonstrate nearly as much self-interest on your part. You do not sound like a stereotypical, cheesy sales person. Instead, you sound like an unbiased, neutral advisor. It is human nature for sales people to want to jump at external problems before internal problems. However, this can be a big mistake. Remember, few customers appreciate dealing with sales people who are self-involved fixers. So get to the real problem, not a quick solution.
Customers must first come to terms and understand the full range of their emotions in respect to their problems in order to make informed decisions (pros, cons, options, threats, priorities, timing, authority to change, politics). The job of the sales person is to walk them through that maze. The goal is to ask questions that reveal latent or unrecognized issues. Questions need to be emotionally charged and speak to the heart of customer's problems. Corporations have problems, yet it is individuals who are the decision-makers who have insecurities, fears and emotional anxiety.
"Trusting relationships are related to deeper personal and psychological connections. Buyers need things, but they want feelings. In the category of needs are things like toothpaste, automobiles, chip sets. But in the category of wants are aspirational feelings like respect, peace of mind excitement or security," says Charles Green.
Sales are consummated when sales people assess the impact of not achieving the emotional feelings. Customers do not buy drills they buy holes. The same analogy is with money. No one cares about money per se. What they care about is how it feels when they have it, and when they do not have it. Money is simply a byproduct and a derivative of something else. Likewise, gain is a byproduct and derivative of fear, insecurity and problems. Figure out what the cost is for your customer in not getting the right holes. Figure out what the problems are, and the solution step becomes so much easier and self-evident.
"Fear does extraordinary things to most of us. It creates all kinds of illusions. Until we go into it very deeply and really understand it, fear will always distort our actions. Emotional urges are far stronger than intellectual reasoning and creates a lot of of emotional capacity," said Krishnamurti.
The original incident of problems for your customer is never as severe as the subsequent self-inflicted impact of it, meaning how it impacts them personally. It is their reaction that is the key. This is why all problems are emotionally charged. Customers suffer after the fact. Sales people are well served when they focus on the aftereffects, more so than the incident of the problem itself. It is the consequences of the problem that will determine whether the customer is inclined to do anything about it.
As your customers move deeper and deeper into the silence of their emotions, all the intellectual rational questions they had tend to fall by the wayside. To touch the raw emotions of your customers, use words and phrases that are emotionally charged.
So many customers are so caught up in their own company's culture and beliefs that they cannot see the big picture in relationship to their problems. They cannot easily and freely discover, understand, and investigate because they are too close to their problems. So your job is not to bring more information, but to peel away all the information they have, and simplify it for them. Without your help they are just bringing in new information and new patterns based on the old conditions, and nothing really changes. They do not need to learn as much as they need to unlearn. Their willingness to unlearn helps you gauge their willingness to change, or learn something better or different (your solution). As the old ancient Zen sages said, "If their cup is too full there is no room for anything new."