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3 Ways to Embrace a Problem-Centric Sales Methodology - #INBOUND18

Sep 05th, 2018

“Do relationships matter in sales?”

When Keenan, CEO of A Sales Guy, asked this question to a room of #INBOUND18 attendees, most people raised their hands to indicate a yes.

But Keenan begged to differ. He said sometimes people buy from people they like, but more often, people buy because a product will provide them value – and because it will help them solve a specific problem.

“Don’t run around trying to be liked,” he said. “You don’t have to be liked to be trusted.”

So how can salespeople change their approach to focus more on the customer’s problems and less on the solution they’re trying to sell?

Here are 3 ways to embrace a problem-based sales methodology from Keenan’s #INBOUND18 session.

#1: Get Back to Sales Basics

“Don’t get lost in features when you’re trying to hone in on [the customer’s] problem,” said Keenan. “Figure out the problem and the impact of the problem.”

To demonstrate his point, Keenan said to think about this scenario: if you have a bad headache on a Sunday where you have nothing to do, would you pay $1,000 for a pill to make it go away? Maybe not. What if you had a big presentation the next day, with a huge commission riding on it? You might consider it. But what if the headache was connected to a major health problem? In that case, you will definitely spend the $1,000.

In this example, the problem is the headache and the impact of the problem (the big presentation or the major health problem) drives the motivation to buy. That’s where the value of the product comes into play.

The problem is only a problem based on the impact, Keenan said, but too many salespeople jump right to the scary part (the major health problem) without first finding the root cause of the problem.

Keenan said to uncover the following information to figure out the root cause:

  • What is the problem that the customer is experiencing?
  • What impact does it have on their people and their business?
  • Based on that information, what is the root cause of the problem?

#2: Find the Gap

“The root of every sale you’ll make is change,” said Keenan. “Salespeople are change agents. [People] don’t buy anything unless [they] want a change.”

But he said that too many salespeople are still order-takers and have no idea why a customer is buying their solution.

To change this, sellers have to diagnose the problem by looking at the gap between the customer’s current state and future state. The difference between the current and future state is where the salesperson will have the chance to show the value of their solution.

The problem-centric sales methodology.

Map out the following information, first for the current state and then for the future state:

  • The problem
  • The impact
  • The root cause
  • The emotion (how people are reacting)

For example, if you can map out a gap of $250,000 in lost revenue per year, then you can justify the cost of your product if it’s $2,000 per month.

#3: Sell Outcomes, Not Solutions

Whether the customer objects to a lack of features, price or other factors, every sales methodology comes with obstacles. But Keenan says if sellers can get the problem-based sales methodology right, they can minimize objections from the customer.

To do this, he says, keep reminding the customer of the gap that you mapped out and the value that they can realize if they make a change. Ask them, do they want to keep losing $250,000 per year?

“Remind the customer of the end goal that they wanted,” Keenan says. “Don’t defend yourself, make them defend themselves. Problem centric selling puts the customer first, not you, and that changes everything.”          

Thinking about adopting a new sales methodology like this one? Check out our Sales Transformations Survival Guide for tips and best practices.