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Saturday, 23 April 2011

Problem Based Selling is not the only way!

I enjoy The Inflexion-Point Blog, they often address current issues in Sales and Marketing and are well written. However, on The 10 Key Questions your Business Model Must Address.

We disagreed on the first one.

1: What business critical problems do you solve for your customers?

Why this is important: because unless your prospect acknowledges a clear and compelling business problem, you have little opportunity to sell them a solution.

This, 'Problem Solving', is still being offered as a holy grail, and certainly Prospects with a “compelling business problem” are likely to buy. But, I will not wait to find these nuggets. We have to include in the Sales spectrum Prospects that don’t have compelling business problems. Instead I also have to search for prospects that would be interested in an opportunity!

We label Prospects with 'compelling business problems' as “Opportunities”, but we mean THEY have a problem.
And, WE have a Sales Opportunity.

In “Opportunistic” Selling we invert this.
We look for Prospects with Opportunities then we have the Problem of delivering on it!

Prospects do signal their ‘opportunities’ to us,
with key phrases “If only…..” or
“What we really could use would be….”

Sales don’t listen because they are not
compelling business problems”, and
they seldom fit our standard product offer!

What is the key ‘quality’ in Opportunistic Selling? Imagination!

Both Seller and Buyer need Imagination.

The rudimentary skills were initially described in Miller, Heiman and Tuleja’s “Conceptual Selling”(1987), however, in my opinion, this has now been diluted with an emphasis on 'Finding Problems' and using a Sales Process based on 'Problem Solving'.

In the original text P.280 they outline the concept of Valid Business Reason,
and in Ch. 12 they give as one Criteria of Valid Business Reason:

“Related to their business (not necessarily to your Product)”

It’s worth defining the Two Selling Styles to clarify and distinguish between them:

“Problem/Solution” Selling is based upon Problem Solving where the Prospect has
an unfavourable set of circumstances which, if not addressed, will damage their business.

Opportunistic” Selling is based on uncovering an opportunity,
a favourable set of circumstances in the Prospect’s business environment,
which if taken advantage of will improve their Business.

This is not semantics;

it IS semantics to argue that a Customer’s "Problem" is also their "Opportunity".

Here is a Harvard Business Review article saying the same thing, but SPIN® based!

A concrete example:

A client is ordering a small incremental data storage upgrade.
They still have a single point of failure. (Which is NOT perceived by the Client as a Compelling Business Problem as the MTBF is 10 years and they have had no issues for last 3 years).

The Salesperson engages the Buyer’s imagination by asking:
“What their ‘Ideal’ Data Storage System would be, if they had no legacy system or cost constraints?”

The Prospect imaginatively describes a ‘Mirrored’ Data Storage System,
with Geographical and Mains Power separation, a truly 'no single point of failure' Data Storage System.

Now, the Prospect has an Opportunity and the Seller has a Problem,
how to overcome the Cost and Legacy constraints and take the Prospect to their “Ideal” solution.

Or, they can just take the order for the small incremental upgrade and
hope that an Opportunistic Sales Competitor doesn’t ask the same question and solve the Problems!

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