Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
Ian Garner
Business Writer
1:00 AM 9th December 2023

Sell The Problem You Solve, Not The Solution!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Is selling an art or a science?

Selling is a complex process that involves both art and science.

Some people believe that selling is an art, while others believe that it is a science. However, it is important to note that both art and science are essential components of selling and that successful salespeople use both to their advantage.

Understanding the buyer's decision process helps you understand the customer's journey and how and why they make a purchase decision. Businesses can take different approaches to buying, so you need to 'fact-find' not only to understand the problem they want to solve but also to understand how they go about making decisions.

A classic mistake made by ineffective salespeople is, in essence, to say, “I’ve got this great solution; now tell me, what’s your problem?.” They may not use those words, but the likelihood is that it is what the customer will hear.

Image by Gino Crescoli from Pixabay
Image by Gino Crescoli from Pixabay
It’s understandable that you are proud and excited about the business solution you offer, but don’t make the error of thinking that potential buyers will share your excitement.

It is vital that you are passionate about what you have to sell; if you don’t believe in it, you will never persuade others to buy from you.

Some psychologists believe that buyers don’t make rational decisions; rather, they make emotional decisions and then justify those by rationalising them after the fact.

Most customers search for solutions to their problems, not products. If people can't see how their problems will be solved by what you are providing, you will be wasting your time.

To achieve success in selling, one must follow a process with distinct steps.

The first step in that process is to listen. If you don’t identify what problem is worrying the buyer, you are missing the key ingredient that could lead to a sale. Ask lots of questions, check your understanding, and clarify back to the buyer to ensure you correctly understand their needs.

Remember, the buyer is keen to stop the problem from being a problem. They aren’t really interested in your product or service unless they believe it will take their problem away.

American NFL footballer Aaron Ross gave this useful advice: “Customers don’t care at all whether you close the deal or not. They care about improving their business.”

It doesn’t matter what you think; it’s what the buyer thinks that’s going to close the sale.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Improving your listening skills is one of the best things you can do to improve customer service.

Too often, salespeople rush to try and solve the problem without listening to the whole story. The truth is, sometimes the customers themselves don’t even know what they really want.

Show interest by asking open-ended questions to encourage the customer to speak. Don’t ask too many closed yes/no questions; they are inclined to shut down the conversation.

Active listening sends a message to the customers that you’re fully engaged with them and care about their problems.

Successful selling means showing your prospective customers how your product meets their needs and why your offering is the right solution.

As Peter Drucker, a famous and well-respected American management consultant, once said, “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him or her and sells itself.” This is just as true for selling.

Albert Einstein said, “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.”

It’s as simple as finding the problem, offering the benefit, and explaining why your product will solve it.

Ian Garner
Ian Garner
Ian Garner is a retired Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute (FCMI) and a Fellow of the Institute of Directors (FIoD).

Ian is a board member of Maggie’s Yorkshire. Maggie’s provides emotional and practical cancer support and information in centres across the UK and online, with their centre in Leeds based at St James’s Hospital.

He is founder and director at Practical Solutions Management, a strategic consulting practice, and skilled in developing strategy and providing strategic direction, specialising in business growth and leadership.