canstockphoto32287429It’s never about the symptoms.

Tomorrow is your company’s biggest presentation of the year, but everyone involved is down with the flu. Sure, you could prescribe plenty of tea, throat lozenges, and numerous over-the-counter drugs. But those methods will only treat the symptoms, not the real sales management problem: a lack of proper planning.

It’s similar to the conversations most sales reps have with prospects. They ask one or two questions and assume they have zeroed in on the client’s need and can offer an appropriate solution. This is rarely the case. Surface-level questioning usually only identifies symptoms, not the real problem. This sales strategy is doomed to fail.

Instead, salespeople must take the time to dig deep and evaluate each prospect’s unique situation in order to actually understand and define the real need or problem. These insights are what clients and prospects really want from sales reps—not a one-size-fits-all solution, but tailored advice from experts who know their stuff.

Zeroing in on the Real Problem

Sales management: Listen up. It’s not the symptoms your prospects want to hear about—they’ve already noticed those. And it’s not your solution that grabs their attention either. It’s your sales team’s expertise in defining and communicating prospects’ problems.

Most clients come to us knowing they have a problem, but they’re often unsure what’s actually causing it. It’s the job of sales management to teach their teams how to get to the heart of a business problem.

Charles H. Green sums up the issues in his post, “Clients Don’t Buy Solutions, They Buy Problem Definitions.

The most common error of sellers in consultative sales situations is—they blindly accept the customer’s definition of the problem.

If the problem definition is wrong, then a solution based on it is going to be wrong as well. Worse yet, a fully worked out proposal grounded on a faulty problem definition becomes increasingly tenuous … Clients don’t want to admit the definition was wrong from the get-go, so they simply stop returning calls, the sellers get resentful—and everyone goes off to try the same thing all over again, getting, of course, the same results.

But …  if you as a seller can truly engage a buyer in a joint process of discovery, you then trigger something magical: a willingness to explore openly the true issue, and a willingness to engage your expertise in the pursuit.

(Read the rest of Green’s article.)

The Sales Management Challenge: Teach Sales Reps to Have Meaningful Business Conversations

Your team can’t have these valuable conversations if they’re reading from scripts or delivering rehearsed pitches. Defining problems requires experienced salespeople who know how to have back-and-forth conversations—to ask smart questions, listen closely to the answers, and then ask even smarter follow-up questions.

Thoughtful and provocative questioning has a huge impact on close rates and sales revenues. When sales reps ask probing questions to understand what their clients really need—not just what the clients think they need—the scale of projects increases, creating win/wins for everyone. Your company gets bigger deals. Clients get solutions that actually solve their problems and create measurable business results. And they are happy to offer referrals to their networks.

Bravo! You’ve addressed the problem, not the symptom. Your client looks good, your team is prepared, and deals are yours to win. You are now a true sales manager.

Join the Conversation: How do you coach your sales reps to have meaningful discussions and identify prospects’ real problems?

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