There’s a reason why problem solving in sales is so important. Being a good problem solver enables buying.
When what your salesperson sells is a solution, he or she must be a good problem solver. In order to provide a solution, you must be able to uncover the problems!
Sometimes a problem, or at least the outward manifestation of the problem, such as rapid staff turnover, is obvious. Often though, while perceptive insiders realize that something is wrong, precisely what that is remains a mystery.
Help your salesperson in being a good problem solver by accepting that a problem named is a problem solved. But who does the naming? That is, who pinpoints the problem that needs to be identified and resolved?
Is it the seller? Or is it the buyer?
You could argue that it doesn’t matter as long as the problem comes clearly into focus. But the truth is that buyers rarely approach a sales call with a clear idea of what they expect to come out of it. Your salesperson’s goal is simple. He wants to discover that what he can provide will meet the buyer’s needs. More importantly, he wants the buyer to make the same discovery!
So, it’s up to you to help your seller create a well-structured interactive conversation that enables buying. This means that the buyer recognizes the underlying issues that are holding his or her organization back.
Why & How Being a Good Problem Solver Enables Buying
The first step in being a good problem solver is asking the right questions.
Being a good problem solver means knowing enough about the company and its industry to anticipate the kinds of challenges the buyer is probably facing.
But who owns the problem?
Identifying a pressing problem or a group of interlocking problems is often the easiest part of discovery-based selling. But to win the business, your salesperson must get answers to some critical questions.
Does the buyer care enough about the problem or problems to believe they must be solved?
Does the seller have a feasible solution?
Is the buyer confident that your company is the one to provide that solution?
It’s pretty obvious that you want the answer to all three questions to be “Yes.”
Most heads of sales I’ve met believe that their salespeople are in the information-giving business. They’re too quick to talk about themselves and their company’s features and benefits. By focusing on the buyer, they put themselves in the much more successful—and profitable—information-getting business. Thus, they are being good problem solvers!
The key to moving a conversation forward when your salesperson is being a good problem solver is perfecting her skills as an active listener. That means she’s not only interested in hearing what the other person has to say about his or her concerns. She understands why the concerns matter, and she encourages the buyer to tell her more about the problem and its significance to the buyer’s company.
As she listens, she continues to clarify: “Are you saying that ….” “Tell me more.”
She’ll follow up with a query that defers to the buyer’s expertise: “Why is that the case?” “What do you think can be done about it?” What’s working and what isn’t?”
Coach your salesperson to encourage the buyer to explain a potential solution: “Can you tell me more about why you think that approach will work?”
Encourage your salesperson to create a shared, collaborative partnership to make solving the problem a mutual goal.
The last question she’ll ask is a personal one.
This allows the buyer to become invested in the conversation at an emotional level. People will usually buy on emotion. An example of a personal question is “Can you share how this problem is impacting you on a personal level?” or “Do you mind me asking how this affects you specifically if this problem doesn’t get taken care of?”
Active listening is an important tool when your salesperson is being a good problem solver. It helps the buyer connect to the problem. Without it, the buyer is still in a take-it-or-leave-it intellectual mindset with little at stake.
Check out our training video on active listening to see our exercise in action:
Remember, too, that a prospect’s problem is unique even if it fits into a recognizable category.
So, it’s essential when being a good problem solver that your salesperson provides a targeted solution. They can’t do that by jumping to conclusions based on insufficient discovery or making unexamined assumptions that lead them in the wrong direction. And, if they’re successful in having the client take ownership of the problem, he or she will see the solution as an investment in the company’s future, not as an expense.
Equally important, your company will need to deliver solutions to the specific problems that were surfaced.
So, what do you think? Active listening is a key practice when being a good problem solver. Do you have any other ideas on how and why being a good problem solver enables buying? Let us know in the comments!