Marketers often charge into a prospect’s office with a list of ‘problems’ they’re going to help them solve. The marketer has been conditioned to be a problem solver, so they tend to focus all their energy on how to fix whatever issue the prospect is having. Even many coaches and advisers that teach marketers and salespeople how to ‘sell’ are spewing out the primary theme of solving problems. Unfortunately, marketers are usually trying to solve ‘problems’ that aren’t the number one issue with their client.
“Every problem has a solution, although it may not be the outcome that was originally hoped for or expected.”
Humans are natural problem solvers. The fact that we’ve endured as long as a group of people as we have is evidence of that. Human beings are also natural problem seekers. Let that one sink in. You know it’s true. And I’m not talking just about those associates we are involved with every day! It’s daunting and takes focus to avoid. We just spend so much time solving problems, that we naturally seek problems to resolve, even if we don’t have those difficulties right now.
Group–think pervades customer service. Most believe that if we (or our marketers) can be courteous, responsive, helpful and resolve a customer issue quickly, then we’ve excelled at the art of customer service and by extension, solve their problems.
But resolving today’s issue usually doesn’t prevent future issues, either the same one or a related concern. Leading service companies are realizing that there are predictable patterns to prospect issues (at least within a specific vertical), and sometimes across the board. There’s even the misconception that it’s related to a complaint about the company you represent. Reality, though, many times it’s directly related to the prospects’ own issues or problems. Business people (your prospects) do have issues, concerns and problems that you can solve.
Three simple steps to solve problems.
- Identify the problem. What is the problem? Get some background of what happened and when. Clarify and learn as much as you can. What issue or challenge does it present to them or their business?
- Ask and answer the best questions. Don’t blow past this step and rush to a solution. How prevalent is the problem? Are we dealing with it every month? Week? Day? Who is involved in the problem? Same people every time or different? How long has this been going on? Has something happened that has caused this to happen? Did something stop happening that caused this to happen?
- Decide who owns the solution and be clear so they can be accountable. If they aren’t directly able to accept and use your suggestions, you’re barking up the wrong tree.
The ideas listed above are over-simplification, but it’s important to start somewhere.
Typically, more often than not, the problem first mentioned is not the one they need the solution to! Many times, prospects, clients, customers will beat around the bush and NOT tell you their primary pain or concern up front. They keep it to themselves either out of embarrassment or they don’t know their main pain. Let’s face it, solving problems is hard. You must deal with uncertainty, set aside large amounts of time dedicated to working through a solution, and sometimes you don’t find a solution!
That is why the rewards in our society go to those people who solve problems. The more people that experience the problem you are solving and the greater they value a solution, the more you will be financially rewarded for your solution. Just be careful that you don’t charge in there like some knight on a white horse tackling the first issue they mention. Dig deep. Ask lots of questions and listen to what they are really saying.
Co-authored by Beth Hinton and D Wagner