Love Sales: Be a problem solver, not a product pusher
This is a PSA to all my sales peeps out there:
If you want to meet more high-potential clients, close more deals, and build a network of people that go out of their way to recommend you… be a problem solver, not a product pusher.
That’s essentially what sales is all about, helping people by providing the right solution to their problem. It’s one of the things I love most about sales, the sheer number of people you get to connect with and help.
Where salespeople often get it twisted is they try to push their product, their solution, as the ‘be-all-and-end-all’ to their clients’ problem when it’s not the best fit.
What happens when the client discovers that what they paid for wasn’t exactly what they needed? Credibility is lost, reputation suffers, and doors slam shut.
Sales is a hard career. We don’t need to make it any harder for ourselves. I’ve got good news for you. It gets easier. All you need to do is build a solid reputation (over many, many years) of helping people solve their problems.
Simply move off your solution (the product), and focus on their priorities. In Let's Get Real or Let's Not Play, Mahan Khalsa says, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
And he’s absolutely right.
When you focus on their priorities and problems, you’ll have deeper conversations about what they actually need for their business.
You might not make a sale immediately, but you’ll see your network grow as more and more doors open for you.
And when it comes time for them to need your solution, or even recommend it to someone else, guess who they’ll get in touch with?
Note: These aren't just platitudes, this is exactly how I was able to start my own sales consulting business.
3 missed tactics to position yourself as a problem solver
Have I got you wanting an easier time in your sales journey by being a problem solver? If the answer to that is ‘yes’, I want to share three tactics that I’ve found helpful.
Besides starting with the mindset of helping people, here are some mental models and practices I find useful.
1. Do your research/homework.
Before I meet any client, I find out more about them.
I’ve got an appointment with a company that sells fire safety equipment?
I check them out on their socials and website. I google “top 5 problems/issues fire safety equipment companies face”. I might even ask ChatGPT or Bard about possible solutions.
There’s plenty of information on the internet, and none of us have any excuse. It helps us relate better, connect quicker, and have conversations that dig beyond the surface.
2. Get curious and use the ‘5 whys’ method.
Sometimes potential clients come to me and say they want a particular solution. It’s tempting to just sell without digging any deeper.
But what happens if their problem actually needs a different solution? You need to find the root cause.
I want to make sure I’m helping people by solving their problems at the root, instead of plastering band-aids on broken legs.
So, I get curious and use the ‘5 whys’ method. This just means I ask ‘why’ at least five times, digging deeper into the cause of what the client wants.
For example, a client recently asked me to come up with a new commission structure for them.
I asked, “How come you think you need a new commission structure?”
They replied, “We think our sales people aren’t making enough sales.”
“Why do you think your sales people aren’t making enough sales?” I asked.
[and on it went...]
You see how this works.
Through this conversation, I learned that the client actually needed better sales documentation, as well as a better hiring and training system in order to build a strong and motivated sales team.
They were bringing people in and not showing them what to do in a repeatable way.
I could have done what they asked initially and sold them a new commission structure. But that would have just been motivating incompetence, through no immediate fault of the salesperson.
This would have eventually left them disappointed as their problem went unsolved, and my reputation and credibility as a sales consultant would have suffered.
Note: It might take more than five "why-style" questions, or less. You might need to use some hows, wheres, whos, whens and whats, like above. The point is that you peel back the layers and get to the root of the problem in order to solve it effectively.
3. Hit ‘Pause’ to refocus.
The third tactic is a mental model. Hit ‘Pause’.
Sometimes discussions get sidetracked and we come to a conclusion that just isn’t going to work. When that happens, I mentally ‘hit pause’ and refocus the conversation by saying, “Let’s take a few steps back.”
Rising tempers threatening to derail a discussion? Hit ‘Pause’.
Participants fixating on a less important issue, possibly wasting everyone’s time? Hit ‘Pause’.
People are getting tired or distracted? Hit ‘Pause’.
Be ready to hit ‘pause’ and even reconvene at a later time or date if necessary. As sales people, we have to do what it takes to have effective and efficient conversations.
Think long-term, not just “right now”
When you have this attitude of helping people and solving their problems, you might lose out on some sales because your product isn’t the right solution.
But the long-term benefits are worth it.
1. People feel psychologically safe with you.
They learn that you hold their interests and well-being as a priority and that leads them to trust you. You’re there to help them and that means anything you sell them is going to be good for them because you take the time to ensure that your products are effective solutions to their problems.
2. People start seeing you as their go-to.
As time passes, your reputation precedes you and clients choose you over cheaper alternatives because you’re reliable and trustworthy.
3. People want to help you.
Finally, karma comes around and people (even those that never bought from you) begin recommending your services to everyone relevant.
Win the war, not the battle
This is easier said than done when you've got KPIs and quotas to hit, and a manager breathing down your neck to hit your number. It’s tempting to want to hit quick targets just so you can win these battles.
But, slowing down, asking deeper questions, and being honest with people about what you can do actually opens up more opportunities, even if it’s not the one right in front of you. When you focus on the long-term and on solving people’s problems, you’re more likely to win the war.
If you're stuck or would like to work through an issue, drop me a DM on LinkedIn!