I met with a small business owner a couple months ago to talk about her company and her plans for growth. She shared some challenges that they've been working on—especially a sales cycle that takes too long, and the constant pressure to reduce price and terms to close deals. Pretty common stuff for any company trying to gain more business.
As we talked a little more, though, the problem changed. We found that the sales cycle did take too long, and they were getting beat up on price—but that wasn't the real issue. The issue was that she had no control over forecasting the company pipeline. Because she was unable to do that, she couldn’t make capital investments to grow the operation. So she was stressed to the point of exhaustion, and concerned that the company she once had control of, now had control of her.
Her problem was a long sales cycle—but her pain was a feeling of helplessness and chaos.
Don’t Solve the Problems Prospects Complain About
You see, the problem that your prospect brings you is rarely the real problem. It’s only a symptom of the real issue. A true partner in business is a sales professional who solves the real pains, not the surface problems.
Most salespeople, however, hear a problem and jump right to the solution. They do this for a number of reasons. Here are some common roadblocks to discovering the real pain:
- Problems are easy to talk about, pain can be an uncomfortable conversation
- Sales people love to help, and as soon as they hear a problem they’ve solved before, the natural reaction is to go into solution mode
- We’re built with something called “need for approval,” and we mistakenly look to get it from prospects in a selling environment
- Sometimes salespeople really do want to uncover pain, but they just don't know HOW to do it
Prospects today have all the information they need to make buying decisions. They can look at websites, they can search for testimonials, they can almost always find competitive pricing to compare quotes. Almost every product or service today is a commodity—and as a result, salespeople today are a commodity too.
Sounds bleak huh? It should.
Solve the Pain, Not the Problem
If this is all true, then how do you differentiate yourself in the sales arena to solve problems like sales cycles taking too long, and getting beat up on price? It starts with solving pains, not problems.
The business owner I mentioned earlier is an expert in her field—but her prospects aren’t. They were telling her the problems they had, as they saw them, and she was trying to solve those issues.
When she was trying to solve their felt problems, she was up against every competitor in her industry. What she’s learning now is how to solve a problem that her competition isn’t even looking for. She was getting commoditized in conversations about problems, but she provides a unique solution to real pains in her industry.
Now, instead of trying to solve the problem her prospects bring her, she and her team are digging deeper to find the true pain. Today their only competition is their own ability to dig deep and get to the true pain.
It isn’t easy to get there, but it’s so simple once you do. Happy selling.