Problem Solving Selling

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Selling is all about solving, addressing the clients problems and needs (plain and simple!). This method of selling is far different from the traditional "push-the-product" approach where sales people just present the products without first finding out exactly the client's needs. It's like doctors prescribing medicine without first finding out the patient's symptoms.

"The most successful sales professionals are the ones whose customers eagerly anticipate their meetings because they know they will do some problem solving together."

Therefore, mastering problem-solving selling is the most important key to success in the sales! This is what will set our company apart from our competition!

I. Introduction: The Sales Call Is A Meeting


Doing a sales call is no different than conducting a meeting. Meetings in general are difficult to manage well, and problem solving meetings (brain-storming) are the most challenging of all. The skills required to run a successful meeting are the same skills needed to do an effective sales call.

Successful Meeting = Quality of Content X
Quality of Process

Content refers to the following:
1. What is the task?
2. What is the problem?
3. What is the objective?
4. What are the results?

Process refers to the following:
1. How did it feel to be in the room?
2. How was time distributed among the participants?
3. How much good listening took place?
4. How effectively did we work together?

Problem-Owner: Client
Participants: Web Consultant/ Sales Team
Facilitator: Web Consultant

To increase the chances of a productive meeting, the web consultant should be responsible in making sure that both the quality of content and process in the meeting or sales call is high. (In a sense, the web consultant acts as both the facilitator and participant in a meeting).


II. Problem-Solving (Brainstorming)
A. Stages in problem-solving sessions

In a typical brainstorming meeting, the stages are as follows:

1) Position the Session
• Create a comfortable climate
• Clarify the objectives
• Review the ground rules

2) Analyze the problem
• Backgrounds leading to the problem
• Rationale for why it is a problem
• Prior Thoughts of the problem owner
• Problem Owner's hopes and expectations for the session

3) Generate Alternatives

4) Evaluate the Selected Ideas

5) State the Solution and Action Plan

B. Points to Consider in Problem Solving Sessions

• Disrespecting other people's ideas can diminish the creative potential of a group. Participants need to be tolerant, supportive, and encouraging of one another's ideas and perspectives.

• The group should treat ideas as dynamic, not static. This means that ideas generated can always be improved. If someone says a solution "is too expensive", find out if there's a way to make it less expensive.

• Concerns or objections to an idea can be transformed into "invitations" that keep the problem solving process moving forward instead of closing it down.

• After all alternatives are presented, normally, it's the problem-owner (client) who has the final say in what solutions to choose.

• Never leave a problem solving meeting without a well-developed action plan. It should address, "what must be done?" "Who should do it?" "When must it be completed?" "Who will assist?"

Phase III: Generate Alternatives
Most Salespeople rush into this too early. Make sure you fully understand the client's needs first before you present. Sometimes, when we're so comfortable with the client, we present too early. No two presentations are alike! Different customers have different needs. Therefore, your presentations will always be different from client to client. The difference will be in emphasizing the benefits that are specific to the customer's needs.

This does not mean however, that you should not practice presenting by yourself. You need to practice first and master the concept and feel confident before you can tailor fit it to the client.

Features-is a description of some characteristic of a product or service. (What?)

Benefits-is an explanation of how the feature will help the individual. (So What?)

Most salespeople are comfortable discussing the features of the product but are not as comfortable discussing the benefit. However, discussing the benefit is the key to the sale!

It's not enough to discuss shopping cart or database. You have to explain their specific benefits to the customers.

Steps to Generating Alternatives:
1. Review your understanding of the customer's needs and opportunities

2. Make Recommendation
Speak to be listened too. (Most important points first).

State the best solutions first! State the client's specific need then present the specific solution and benefit.

Offer Ideas, don't just products or services. Ask permission to offer ideas to be tactful. Bear in mind that customers want you to bring them ideas-even if they don't say it!

Sometimes you have to use all your creative resources to solve a problem, not just what you in the bag-be resourceful and creative!

3. Ask the Customer for feedback
Request for feedback should be genuine and sincere.

Ask open ended questions (Questions that can't be answered by yes or no).

Example:

"How does that sound to you?"

"What are your thought about this idea?"

"Can you give me some feedback?"

Phase IV: Resolving the Issues
Often, when we encounter objections from clients, the sales process transforms from collaborative to a conflict. It's easy to loose your cool in these situations-especially if you thought that you've done your best to present a great solution.

It's better to use the phrase, "resolving the issues", instead of the war-like phrase "overcoming objections" . When we work to resolve the issues, we stay in the problem solving mode and use our process skills to work with the client toward a workable solution.

I. Introduction: Why Customer's Object

If you've gone shopping before, notice that sometimes you want to buy an appliance or a tool. And then, when a salesperson walks to you, you start questioning a lot (objecting) when in fact, you really are convinced already of buying the product. Why is this so?

The reason is because you wanted confirmation!

Most clients object, not because they don't like the product, but because they want to feel sure that they'll make the right decision!

II. Steps
1. Acknowledge the Objection

Acknowledging simply means simply giving back what you heard. It does not mean you are agreeing with the client. You are simply saying you understand how they feel and you're flexible and willing to discuss the issue further.

For example:

Client, "It costs too much,"

Sales person, "I understand cost is a big concern,"

Use the words, "I understand…"
Sometimes it's appropriate to agree with what the customer says without suggesting that this is reason not to proceed with the sale.

Example:
Client, "It's very expensive,"

Sales Person, "Yes, it is expensive. But I think it's worth discussing whether the cost is worth what it can do for you…"

2. Ask for Elaboration
After acknowledging the problem, don't refute it right away. Ask the client to elaborate on the problem.

Use Open-ended questions:

"Why do you feel that way?"

"Can you be more specific?"

3. Transform the Objection into a Need
Every objection is just unsatisfied need!

Reframe the objection in such a way that states a need.

Example:

Customer, "Actually, I think a website is useless for us."

Sales person, "Could you elaborate on that sir, why would it be useless for you?"

Customer, "I think newspaper advertising is enough for us to get new clients."

Sales person, "I see. So you need to be convinced that a website can help you generate more new clients other than newspaper advertising. Is that right sir?"

Customer, "Yes,"

4. Respond to the Need
a) Use benefit statements

Specific benefit statements address the customer's needs-use them. Also sometimes, you need to repeat or re-emphasize the benefits you presented earlier-the client may have missed it or forgotten it.

b) Sell yourself
Explain to the customer how you will do the kinds of things that others won't do as a way to justify the objection. Talk about your commitment, your dedication, or your responsiveness.

c) Sell organization
Explain your organization's resources, capabilities, strengths, and ways of doing business can address the customer's needs.

d) Describe parallel situations
Many customers feel better knowing someone else had a similar concern and that you were able to resolve them.

e) Involve the customer
Sometimes the buyer is interested in getting your product but the objection is because of some third party who won't approve the project. In this case, use "we" and involve the buyer in problem-solving.

f) Respond with ideas
Sometimes the buyer wants to get your product but has some specific problems in proceeding (ex. No time, lack of materials, no personnel). Offer ideas or engage in problem solving to resolve the issues.

g) Use your resources
Bring your sales team.

h) Call time-out
When you've transformed the objection into a need, it's appropriate to call time-out sometimes to prepare for an adequate response.

5. Invite Other Objections
Once you have resolved all the issues (objection), the final step is to invite other objections! Ask for more negative response until there are not any more.

Don't use the words: "problems, issues, worries, or objections."
Use the following:
"Is there anything else we need to discuss?"
"Do you have any other questions?"
"Is there anything else on your mind?"

Four Levels of Idea Response
Level 1: Just plain No!
The idea or concept is just unacceptable. "I don't like websites period!" (Could be personal?)

Level 2: No, because..
The idea or concept is the main objection. Why should I have a website?

Level 3: No, but if I could..
The idea has some value to the client. But the objections are issues or of implementation, price etc. "I want to have a website, but.."

Level 4: that gives me another idea
This is where you want the client to go!

Application of the four levels of idea response

The truly consultative salesperson is the one who can grab customers by the brains, walk them up the "idea staircase" and reach a mutually acceptable solution.

The key is to find out exactly the issues to get from one level to another. Use problem solving process.

Phase V: State the Solution and Action Plan

Closing is the natural outgrowth of a problem-solving process.
1. Ask For the Business
Most salespeople, no matter how seasoned, are at some level reluctant to ask for the business.
After all the issues (objections) are resolved, ask for the business! Ask for the order!
Avoid traditional manipulative techniques in closing.

Don't be a wimp! Ask for the business!

Believe that you are giving to the customer; not taking from them!

2. Establish the Next Steps
Clarify the steps. Clarify the timetable

5 Steps in Problem Solving Selling

Phase I:
Position the meeting
It's all about the relationship. If the potential client does not feel good about working with you, that person won't do business with you-it's that simple!

1. Put the Customer at Ease How to gain a client's trust: Credibility X Intimacy Trust = ___________________________ Risk Credibility:
• Knowing your product well
• Being believable when you make recommendations
• Credibility of the company Intimacy:
• How well the client knows and likes you
• Comfort level of the client with you Risk: The consequence to the buyer making the wrong decisions

2. Confirm the Agenda Explain to the client first what you're about to do. Don't immediately start asking questions. Explain that you intend to ask certain questions and how the client can benefit by answering them.
3. Clarify the Logistics 

  • Respect the prospect's time: Get agreement up front on the time frame for the sales call and adhere to it. 
  • Ask permission to take notes and to ask questions. 

Respect for the prospect's space: avoid putting things on the person's desk. Things to do to build trust, credibility:
• Come with references from people that your buyer knows.
• Highlight our company's years in business.
• Refer numerous long-term successful relationships you have with your clients.
• Describe situations similar to the client's and describe their outcomes.
• Acknowledge the client's fears as legitimate.
• Talk about what's going on in the prospect's industry or business.
• Admit when you don't know the answer or don't have a solution. Offer to get back to the prospect within two days! (Wait a week and you've blown it!)

Some Important Points for Phase I:
• Respect for your competitors. Never put them down because if the prospect is their customers, you're putting down the prospect too.
• Let the person know you're listening and have heard what he or she had to say. Verify your understanding of the persons needs.
• Be sensitive to the client's mood, thoughts, and feelings.

Phase II:
Analyze the Situation Determining customer's needs, or analyzing the situation, is the single most important component of the selling process. Success in this phase rests on two seemingly simple skills: questioning and listening. Ask the right questions in a sensitive way! In most cases, the way salespeople ask questions is one of the behaviors that upset buyers most. Straightforward, compassionate questioning that is genuinely an intellectual inquiry, with no covert agenda, works best in all selling situations.

1. Prepare the Customer for questioning

a) Ask pre-question statements to ease yourself and the client. These statements explain the reason why you need the information and how it benefits the customer for you to ask it. Example: Statistics say that 68% of sales calls were made to those other than the decision maker! That means many sales people are presenting to the wrong people! But then again, it's not easy to immediately ask the client, "Are you the decision maker?" Therefore, use a pre-question statement like the ff: "Ms. Buyer, every company has its own decision-making process. I would not like to waste anyone's time by not understanding how decisions are made in your company. Could you tell me how the process works here?" The above statement is direct, respectful and will save you a lot of time.
b) Group questions in clusters. Group your questions to related topics. This gives your questioning a sense of orderliness and logic. If the client thinks you're disorganized with your questions, they might become confused and worse, it might diminish your credibility. You can for example, group your topics according to the ff: • The customer's product Line

  • The customer's competitors 
  • The customer's strategy 
  • The customer's mission or vision 
  • The customer's advertising strategy After you group your questions in clusters, use pre-clusters statements to prepare the client to go from one cluster to another. Example: "Thank you. That was extremely helpful. Now I would like to a few questions about your advertising strategy.

  • S (strength) in SPOT, you'll be able to see what sets the clients apart from their competitors. Be careful when discussing the P (problems) in SPOT. Some clients might be reluctant to admit their problems. Again use the technique of building trust and using pre-question statements.

" 2. Asking Appropriate Questions Having prepared the customer for questions, the next step is to ask appropriate questions.

  • a) Transactional Questions Transactional questions are fact-finding questions. They provide you with account specifications. Ex. “Do you have a website?” “Do you have internet access?” “Where do you host your web site?” These kinds of questions are important, and you have to ask them. But they don't always reveal a lot about the customer's needs.
  • b) Needs-Clarification Questions These are the questions that uncover the client's needs. i. Strategic Questions These questions focus on long-term plans, objectives of the company.
  • A useful model would be known as SPOT (Strengths, problems, Opportunities, Threats).
  • By discussing the
  • "Problem questions open the door for some serious problem-solving opportunities with the customer.
  • " O (Opportunity) questions are strategic questions that invite the customer to look at some area of their business they might not have investigated yet.
  • T (Threats) questions are more complicated. They ask about the risks and challenges they have to face. Ask them only when the client feels safe with you. They require the clients to think. Avoid asking too many of them. ii. Speculative Questions Speculative questions guide customers to think about what they would like to see happen, and then what they expect to happen. Example: "What would you most like to change in the way you do business?" "How do you think your customers are changing?" "If you could change anything about your current supplier (web host) what would it be?" "What would be an example of the kinds of things salespeople have done for you in the past that demonstrated they were the kind of people you wanted to work with?" iii. Current Events Questions Current events questions invite customers to talk about what is happening in the marketplace, the economy, the country, and the world, and how it is affecting their business. If anything, by asking these questions, you show some credibility-you did your homework.

Phase III: Generate Alternatives

Most Salespeople rush into this too early. Make sure you fully understand the client's needs first before you present. Sometimes, when we're so comfortable with the client, we present too early. No two presentations are alike! Different customers have different needs.
Therefore, your presentations will always be different from client to client. The difference will be in emphasizing the benefits that are specific to the customer's needs. This does not mean however, that you should not practice presenting by yourself.
You need to practice first and master the concept and feel confident before you can tailor fit it to the client. Features-is a description of some characteristic of a product or service. (What?) Benefits-is an explanation of how the feature will help the individual. (So What?) Most salespeople are comfortable discussing the features of the product but are not as comfortable discussing the benefit. However, discussing the benefit is the key to the sale! It's not enough to discuss shopping cart or database. You have to explain their specific benefits to the customers. Steps to Generating Alternatives:
1. Review your understanding of the customer's needs and opportunities
2. Make Recommendation Speak to be listened too. (Most important points first). State the best solutions first! State the client's specific need then present the specific solution and benefit. Offer Ideas, don't just products or services. Ask permission to offer ideas to be tactful. Bear in mind that customers want you to bring them ideas-even if they don't say it! Sometimes you have to use all your creative resources to solve a problem, not just what you in the bag-be resourceful and creative!
3. Ask The Customer for feedback Request for feedback should be genuine and sincere. Ask open ended questions (Questions that can't be answered by yes or no).

Example: "How does that sound to you?" "What are your thought about this idea?" "Can you give me some feedback?"

Phase IV: Resolving the Issues

Often, when we encounter objections from clients, the sales process transforms from collaborative to a conflict. It's easy to loose your cool in these situations-especially if you thought that you've done your best to present a great solution. It's better to use the phrase, "resolving the issues", instead of the war-like phrase "overcoming objections" . When we work to resolve the issues, we stay in the problem solving mode and use our process skills to work with the client toward a workable solution.

1. Introduction: Why Customer's Object If you've gone shopping before, notice that sometimes you want to buy an appliance or a tool. And then, when a salesperson walks to you, you start questioning a lot (objecting) when in fact, you really are convinced already of buying the product. Why is this so? The reason is because you wanted confirmation! Most clients object, not because they don't like the product, but because they want to feel sure that they'll make the right decision!
2. Steps a. Acknowledge the Objection Acknowledging simply means simply giving back what you heard. It does not mean you are agreeing with the client. You are simply saying you understand how they feel and you're flexible and willing to discuss the issue further.

For example: Client, "It costs too much," Sales person, "I understand cost is a big concern," Use the words, "I understand…" Sometimes it's appropriate to agree with what the customer says without suggesting that this is reason not to proceed with the sale.

For Example: Client, "It's very expensive," Sales Person, "Yes, it is expensive. But I think it's worth discussing whether the cost is worth what it can do for you…"

Phase V: State the Solution and Action Plan

Closing is the natural outgrowth of a problem-solving process.

1. Ask For the Business

  • Most salespeople, no matter how seasoned, are at some level reluctant to ask for the business.
  • After all the issues (objections) are resolved, ask for the business! Ask for the order! 
  • Avoid traditional manipulative techniques in closing.
  •  Don't be a wimp! Ask for the business! Believe that you are giving to the customer; not taking from them!