Selling is about solving customer problems, whether those are problems they are currently facing or problems they will face as their marketplace evolves and their needs change. When I asked a top sales professional about what he did that allowed him to stand out in his field, he responded very simply, "I solve problems." Simple, but not easy.
If you can't put your finger on your customer's problem, you won't solve it. Worse, you will waste time and lose credibility. You must describe the problem clearly, and do it from the customer's point of view. The problem should be one the customer sees value in solving. To find out what the really difficult problems are, ask the right questions and listen before acting.
The overarching problem, or goal, for most executives is how to make their businesses more profitable as quickly, reliably, and inexpensively as possible so that they can be assured that they will remain in business, keep the owners happy, and keep their jobs. Myriad other problems are related to that main concern; for example,
Finding new customers
Selling more to existing customers
Improving customer service
Reducing personnel costs
Improving quality and reducing defects
Reducing customer complaints
Decreasing time to market
Improving market share (or mind share)
Taking advantage of new technology
Developing new products
Leaving markets or closing units
The most successful salespeople are the ones who find pressing customer problems and do something to solve them in a way that is convenient, cost effective, or timely. Top salespeople find problems that customers are ready to solve, then work hard to solve them. Of course, finding those problems and then delivering good solutions for them requires a well-planned and organized effort. This resource provides the steps for delivering high-value, innovative customer solutions and recommendations for identifying the customer's priorities for solving those problems.
Top sales professionals know that when you find customers' significant, pressing problems, they will be willing to pay for solutions. Finding those significant problems means sorting out customers who are ready and willing to buy from those who aren't. A critical success factor is how to market your problem-solving abilities so people know what you can do for them and how they can save time, money, or effort by using your solutions.
Taking the initiative to identify and solve customer-related problems in unique ways is leadership. Sales leaders open untapped and sometimes vast new market opportunities. What problems are you solving for your customers? If you were to ask your customers, what would they say? If you asked them to prioritize those problems, would there be any surprises? Customers have many problems. Find those that they want to solve the most and that you are uniquely qualified to solve, and you will have a winning combination.
So, how do you solve problems? There are proven problem-solving steps you can use. You may use them already. Let's take a look at one approach.