Dont Just "Sell the Problem", Quantify It
A recent blog post, Sell the Problem, by renowned Marketing Guru and Author Seth Godin explains how "No
business buys a solution for a problem they don't have." And yet, so many B2B marketers launch into
presenting the cool features and functions of their product, without taking the time to understand if the
person on the other end of the conversation/call/letter believes they even have a problem that the product
hopes to solve.
According to Mr. Godin, when a prospect comes to the table and says, "we have a problem," then you're both
on the same side of the table when it comes time to solve it. On the other hand, if they're at the table because
you're persistent or charming, the only problem they have is, "how do I get out of here."
Product Selling No Longer Works The Product Selling approach, pitching prospects on the features, functions and price of the solution, relies on
the buyer first understanding their problem, that the problem is a priority, and then relies on the buyer
making the connection of how your solution can solve the issues they have. This is a big leap to expect any
buyer to take, and few make it, leading to stalled sales processes, and elongated sales cycles.
Solution Selling is Better, but Not Adequate Today The good news is that many B2B marketers have recognized the issues with the Product Selling approach and
have advanced to a Solution Selling approach. Solution Selling involves understanding buyer pain points, an
inquiry of "what keeps the buyer up at night", and mapping solutions to the pain points. The issue with this
approach is that it relies on the buyer to accurately know and communicate their issues. Too often however,
we find that buyers are struggling with too few resources and information overload, and as a result, these
decision makers are often unaware of serious issues they have, or the prioritization of these issues.
Value Selling is a Requirement Today's buyer is in need of a more proactive engagement, one that provides consultative diagnostic
assistance. This approach is called Value Selling, where the dialogue seeks to illuminate issues the prospect
didn't even know they had, much as a doctor diagnosis a patient based on indicative symptoms.
So what does this approach look like in practice? Seth explained a great example, of how an architectural firm
was struggling to sell space utilization optimization services. The challenge to the architectural firms was that
more often than not, the prospects didn't think they had space allocation problem, and as a result, weren't
looking for a solution, and weren't receptive to meetings / proposals.
Pitching the services fell on buyers who didnt think solving space utilization issues was a priority, so what
could the architectural firm do to "sell the problem"? "As Mr. Godin indicates, the solution resided in the
paradox, "a lot of people aren't willing to embrace that they have a problem unless they also believe that
there's a solution... so part of selling a problem is hinting that there's a solution that others are using, or is
right around the corner.".
"Imagine, for example, getting the data and publishing a list of the top 50 firms, ranked by efficiency of space
use. All of a sudden, the bottom half of the list realizes that yes, in fact, they have something that they need to
work on. If you knew that your firm was paying twice as much per associate as the competition, you'd realize
that there's a problem." according to Mr. Godin.
The Bottom-Line The solution Mr. Godin proposed was to not just to highlight the problem, but to QUANTIFY the problem to
the prospect. By using a Value Selling approach and benchmarking the prospect against competitors , not
only could the salesperson highlight the problem, that the prospect was not utilizing space as well as others
were, but the sales person quantified how bad the problem was on a per capita usage basis; A baseline for
which the prospect could readily compare and relate.
And in today's "age of austerity", where all prospects care about the bottom-line, overspending compared to
the competition needs to be addressed. With quantified benchmarks not only could the prospect clearly
understand the problem, but the benchmarks illuminated the severity of the issue and that others have solved
the problem better than they have.
For more information on Value Selling solutions for B2B marketers visit: Alinean Demand Generation
For information on using diagnostic benchmarking to connect and engage buyers with value early in the sales
cycle, visit Alinean Executive Assessment Tools .
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