Enabling Problem Solvers: Identifying The Impact Of The Problem

Thanks to all of you who shared your thoughts, experiences and feedback regarding my recent blog about sellers as problem solvers. The main feedback was centered around a) the problem is really small; my buyers just want a quick fix such as a new piece of software, b) buyers don’t appreciate our value stories and c) our marketing department thinks that this is way too complicated. Today we’ll focus on a and b.

Let’s quickly recap the background before we go into details.

Our 2018 Buyer Preferences Study found that modern buyers perceive salespeople as just salespeople (product pushing) rather than as problem solvers. Asked about the top three resources they turn to when they have to solve a business problem, salespeople only ranked at number nine, with 23%!

For sales enablement leaders, equipping salespeople to become problem solvers is a key challenge that goes way beyond tailored value messaging and traditional selling skills. (Click to tweet)

Let this sink in for a moment. And read it again. Now let’s discuss the experiences and feedback I received to better understand your sellers’ challenges.

“This is just a $20k problem for my buyer; they just want a piece of software.”

What it actually means: The impact behind the problem has not been properly identified and/or sellers are talking to the wrong buyer role.

This may sound like someone has put a value selling approach on a product selling issue; however, that’s rarely the case. If your organization is just selling screws, nails or paper, you will already have a fully automated e-commerce solution and not even bother with selling interactions that involve human interactions. So you sell different things, and the real selling problem is elsewhere.

We see a lot of salespeople speaking to the wrong buyer roles about the actual problem that their solutions can solve. Imagine you sell a piece of software that makes security and firewall systems even better and connects several security tools.

For the department head, the problem is only perceived to be as big as their budget and responsibility are. (click to tweet)

They need this piece of software, and their architecture is perfect. That’s what they will tell you. Because it’s their area of responsibility and their budget. But this is only half the truth. Using the problem solver’s mindset, it’s your responsibility to show your buyers the bigger picture—the actual business impact of the problem, the pain behind the problem. (click to tweet)

The bigger the pain behind the problem, the bigger the problem you solve and the bigger the value of your deal. In this case, questions have to be asked to learn more about the actual problem, like what happens if the organization is hacked and countless users’ data is stolen, or what if the business processes don’t work anymore? What’s the real pain behind the problem?

What’s the actual business risk in financial terms of not having this problem fixed? (click to tweet)

Now you have a very different conversation. The department buyers usually say either, “Oh, I haven’t thought about it this way” or “I see, but that’s not my area of responsibility” or “We should check this with our finance teams,” etc. Now you know that you talked to the wrong buyer role in the first place!

As the real business problem and its impact are identified, your sellers will have very different conversations, ideally with different buyer roles. And they have to be equipped to have those different conversations. To get there, it’s crucial to keep the initial buyer role involved and not push them away. That would create another problem and, as problem solvers, we don’t want to create new problems, we want to solve the buyers’ actual business problem.

“Buyers don’t appreciate our value stories.”

This statement is closely related to the first one on the “small issue that just needs to be fixed” and can again be a consequence of talking to the wrong buyer role; however, there might be another issue occurring.

Value selling, also referred to as value messaging, is often interpreted in a way that numerous general value scenarios are communicated all at once to impress the buyer, with the hope that one of the scenarios will resonate with them. It doesn’t work like that. Buyers have different preferences.

Your buyers are not interested in the value you can create in general; they are only interested in the value you can create for them. (click to tweet)

The issue again is that the real business problem has not been identified in the first place (see above). Think about it this way: If you don’t have pancreatic cancer, why would the potential cures be of any value to you if you’re not a medical student? As this is a really scary disease, you don’t even want to listen to it.

No doctor would ever share all the value stories of their potential cures if the root causes of your symptoms are not even diagnosed yet. Instead, they run their diagnosis and hopefully arrive at the root causes of your symptoms. Then, and only then, they share potential therapies and recommendations with you.

If you haven’t already, take a look at our new book Sales Enablement – A Master Framework to Engage, Equip and Empower a World-Class Sales Force. It contains lots of “how-to” information to address the challenges mentioned here.


Questions for you:

  • How do you enable your sellers to run proper problem diagnoses?
  • Do you provide any tools that help them do that?
  • How do you ensure your enablement services are tailored to the customer’s path phases?


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