Getting to the Problem

Solution is defined as “the successful action of solving a problem,”

Sales Mapping defines it this way: First comes “P” for problem, then “R” for result. Once you know both of these, then, and only then, are you able to develop an “S” for solution.”

So far, we have covered R1 Rapport and R2 Record of the R5 Communication model. In this chapter, we will focus on R3 Release, “Getting to the Problem.”

If you want to really understand how to improve your sales efforts, then it is vital for you, or an outside firm, to conduct a loss review with your prospect or client. Learn from it and make the changes necessary.

In conducting loss reviews with prospects and clients, here are some examples of the customer’s version of why a company loses the contract:

  • “They missed the target.”
  • “They did not understand the problem.”
  • “They proposed the wrong solution.”
  • “The cost was way over our budget, even though I told them what we could spend before they submitted their proposal.”
  • “What they showed us was not what they proposed.”
  • “The salesperson was too pushy.”
  • “The price was too high.”
  • “The results we wanted were not even addressed.”
  • “We could do the job with our own people for less money and in a shorter timeframe.”
  • “The salesperson did not understand the requirements.”
  • “The salesperson did not do his homework.”

What do salespeople say when they lose? Here are some examples:

  • “We were outsold.”
  • “They didn’t tell me that was important.”
  • “Nobody said that was needed.”
  • “I was never shown or told that.”
  • “I thought we were going to win.”
  • “I never even knew they had an internal group that could do the work.”
  • “I misread who the real decision maker was.”
  • “I did not know our competitor was in there trying to get the business.”
  • “Nobody told me how they would award the contract.”
  • “There must have been a communication problem inside their organization, because my contact liked me.”
  • “It was not my fault.”

“What we have here is a failure to communicate” is the famous line from the movie Cool Hand Luke, and this is what we have in our sample of responses. The more interviewing I do with clients, prospects and salespeople, the more I can connect it back to communication problems.

What we have here is a communication success. This is not a famous quote from any movie, but it is exactly what happens with a sales win!

If I sum up what I have heard from clients who have bought, this is what they told me:

  • “They understood my problem, and proposed a solution that would get the results my company wanted.”

The sales team that worked on the win summed it up this way:

  • “We understood what the client wanted and we developed a solution to get them where they wanted to be.”

Of course, I’m saying to myself, “Okay Rich, you have a stranglehold on the obvious, so what do you do about it?” Well, I am getting there, beginning with the next section.

Why Do People Buy?

What are the three things a buyer must have?

1 “Want” to buy

I read the story of a new president who took over a company that manufactured drill bits. He called in his four vice presidents and asked them what their goals for the company were for the next 5 to 10 years.

A vice president said, “Well, sir, we’re looking at new shapes and sizes for our drills. The competition is stiff, and we’ve got to come up with new and better products to stay competitive.”

Then the new president dropped a bombshell. “Now that I’ve taken over, I have news for you: We are no longer going to sell drills; we are going to sell holes. People don’t want to buy drills; they want to buy products that make holes for them.”

The company was successful under the new president because they began to think of other high-tech ways of creating holes. That company developed lasers long before anyone else was even thinking about the technology of drilling and cutting with light. Everyone else was still thinking about “drills”. That president understood why the company existed and what the customers needed, and he took the initiative, and wonderful things began to happen in that corporation.

No matter how hard someone tries to sell me a drill, if I don’t have a need for holes, I don’t want one. My point…! have to have a problem that needs fixing.

How bad has it gotten?

Whatever the problem is, we must be motivated enough that we decide we need to solve or fix it. When does a company or individual decide they want to make a change? At what point will they decide enough is enough?

It will take some event to trigger us into taking action. Let me illustrate what I heard from people who became motivated to make a change.

In my days of selling big-ticket software, each of the clients held on as long as they could with outdated systems. They would limp along with yellow sticky notes all over the computer screen. The notes were the steps to do something manually because the current system could not perform the function.

They would hire part-time help to perform a function to avoid the expense and time of paying for software modifi­cations. The line staff would complain to the management team about the system and the loss of productivity. The managers would bring the problems and complaints to the executive team.

Salespeople would point to the system deficiencies as getting in the way of closing new business and hurting the existing clients. The executives would listen politely and tell them they could not afford it right then, because they were investing and spending their money in other areas. They would mention the additional staff hired to compensate for the problems.

Every year at budget time they would add the cost, time and expenses necessary to install a new system, and every year it made the first rounds, but eventually would be cut. This happened for many years in a row until something happened.

Competition!

Competition came into their territory with a newer system that could provide the same service for less money, better turnarounds and, ultimately, happier clients. Not to mention, they were a more attractive employer because of their system.

Guess what the company executives said: “We need a new system.” Overnight, they became motivated. Was the system problem new news?

Often, when meeting an organization in a consultative role, management and line staff are happy to tell you their problems because they live with them everyday. I have been told when consulting: “We are glad you are here; maybe now the executives will hear what we have been telling them all along.”

It is not that executives do not want to make changes but, depending on the current business situation, tough choices have to be made. They have been there, done that, got the T-shirt, and making changes is not the easiest of decisions. Generally, it is not always a choice-it is more a dilemma.

That was a business example, but what about a non­business? When do men begin to eat right, stop smoking and begin exercising? You know the answer…after their first heart attack.

Is this because information about a healthy lifestyle has been kept a secret from men? Of course not! But until it happens to you, it is not a problem, yet, and you are not motivated to change.

2 “Way” to buy

Bottom Line:

When we want change, we become motivated to fix the problem.

I once worked for the President of a company who would ask us when we submitted a budget request, “If this were your own personal money, would you consider it a good investment?” “What kind of return would you get?” “At least show me a return I would get from a bank.”

If we got past the first step, then his next questions were, “How long will it take?” “Do we have inside resources to do this?” “What is the impact to our operations if we do this?” “What departments will be impacted by this initiative?”

If we could answer these questions, then he would ask: “What will happen if we decide to hold off until next year?” “What is the impact to our business and clients if we don’t do this now?” “Is there an alternative we can implement that will cost less?” “Can our people do this?”

The questions are good ones, because the message was demonstrating a Return on Investment and a Return on Information.

The way to buy is more than dollars and cents; it really is what the payoff is in terms of:

  • Results (WIIFM)
  • Knowledge
  • Skills
  • Fiscal
  • Other support

Bottom Line:

We must be motivated to change and then have a way to succeed with the resources necessary to accomplish the goal.

3 “Will” to make it work

Change is hard. Yes, we all know that change happens, but that does not make it any easier.

When I work with a sales team implementing the Sales Mapping system, they resist the changes needed to ensure their own personal goals, as well as the company’s. It is not that they do not understand, or see how this will help them, or pay attention to the results they will get. It is all about breaking out of the comfort zone.

The comfort zone, just as the name implies, is like being on cruise control. Any change has a set of concerns and rewards. You must be willing to break out of your comfort zone if you want to have any chance of succeeding.

I remind sales teams of these facts: “Are you not in the business of asking your clients to make major changes? If you are unwilling to make a change, how can you ask your clients to?”

After a few moments, as this sinks in, not only do they agree with me, it never comes up again.

Change begets change and, along the way, bumps in the road will appear. Resistance happens and the question becomes, “Do you have the will to overcome the bumps and the support needed to get the objective met?”

If you do, success is yours; if not, projects, goals and objectives are subject to setbacks and changes from the original intent or failure.

Bottom Line:

You must be motivated to change, have the resources to get it done, and the support and will to reach the goal.

The three things needed to buy are: WANT WAY WILL

Let’s explore the three fundamental business objectives a company has.

Client retention and acquisition

How can I keep the clients I have and get new ones? Clients are the life support system for a business and this question is discussed in meeting rooms around the world. Concerns facing a business are:

  • What services or products do our clients need?
  • What new trend is coming that will impact my base?
  • What new threats do we need to be aware of?
  • What companies are entering into my marketplace?
  • What keeps my clients up at night?
  • What new products or services can we bring to our clients?
  • What do our competitors have that we do not?

This abbreviated list brings to light a few of the many challenges facing a business today.

Bottom Line: Remember it gets back to one thing: “The only purpose of the business is to get and keep clients.”

Profitability

You cannot pay your bills, make payroll, or sign commission checks with revenue! It takes cash, and cash comes from a simple formula.

  1. If revenue is greater than expenses, you have a profit.

Yeah! You are doing a great job and probably are looking at ways to increase your numbers.

  1. If expenses are greater than revenue, you have a loss. Sorry to hear the news. Life at your organization is not fun. The heat is on to get clients and cut back on expenses.
  2. If you do not receive cash from your clients on a timely basis, you have a cash problem.

Hug your CFO, because they need it. They are getting the threatening phone calls from suppliers, who are getting ready to cut the company off if they do not get paid soon.

  1. If you make a profit and get paid in a reasonable timeframe!

Congratulations, you must be using the Sales Mapping System or you figured a system out on your own and want to improve on an already successful business.

Profitability is pretty simple to explain…very difficult to maintain.

Bottom Line:

Companies want to make money.

Productivity

“Time is money” is a true statement. Look at the some of the examples we use everyday.

  • Snail mail versus overnight delivery
  • Snail mail versus email
  • Office phone versus cell phone
  • Desktop PC versus laptop
  • Desktop PC email versus wireless PDA
  • 35 mm camera with film versus digital camera

I used these examples because, in today’s selling environ­ment, it is pretty common to see salespeople with a handheld device that combines wireless, cell phone, email, sales force automation programs, calendar, digital camera and other tools into a single device. Why? Because it allows you to be more productive, leaving more time to spend with existing or new clients and ultimately bring in more business.

Your clients are looking for the same thing – ways to increase their productivity in supporting the basic mission of the business:

“Getting and keeping clients.”

Bottom Line:
Businesses want to save money.

Personal

WIIFM – “What’s In It For Me?” – an old saying with a strong meaning. There has to be a personal or emotional payoff.

After having a heart attack, you may change your life­style because you want to live longer. Maybe you want to see your children grow up, or maybe the experience scared you into living.

What would happen if you headed up a team chosen to select an accounting system replacement that cost millions, took months to implement and involved training hundreds of people to use, and it is a failure? What would happen if it exceeded everyone’s expectations?

You stand to gain or lose personally. There is some “skin in the game,” as the saying goes, and it is your skin. Raises, bonuses, promotions, recognition, and stock options are all examples of types of personal payoff.

Emotions can and will play into the buying process. I have seen committees, charged with making a buying recommendation to the executive team, get close to fist fighting in meetings.

People are sometimes making career-make or career-break decisions. It is important to understand what the personal issues are and the problems facing the individuals.

We all like to reach goals, eliminate problems, gain feedback on a job well done, or just know that we accomplished the objective. It is part of human nature.

Troubleshooting

I want to take you through a hypothetical situation. Let’s say that an application running on your computer develops a problem. While it is annoying, you can live with it. Until one day, your computer finally quits.

Being in sales, you realize how important it is to have your PC working. What happens if you can’t get to your email or send out proposals due the next day? It just keeps getting worse. You need your computer to work.

You call the help desk and the representative says, “What is the problem?” You reply, “My computer is not working.” Is this enough information to solve your problem? Hardly… more information is needed, for example:

  • The kind of computer.
  • The application you are having problems with.
  • The length of time you have had these problems.
  • Whether or not you are running other programs at the same time.
  • The representative will ask you to perform a task with the following question, “What happened?” You tell them and they make a suggestion. If this does not solve the problem, then:
  • The next task is given and you answer the same question until the problem is fixed.

This process is called an algorithm. Some of you who are computer-programming savvy are wondering if I am talking about the same thing that is used in developing software designs. Yes, I am. An algorithm is “A set of instructions or procedures for solving a problem.”

Let’s review what happened with this situation:

The problem with the application had been there for a while, but it was not bad enough to fix it sooner. It was annoying, but we could still get the job done.That is, until it stopped working. Now we quickly became motivated to get the problem fixed.

Why do we want to get it fixed? It is vital to be able to communicate with clients and to get proposals out to your client on time. Problem, motivation to get it fixed, productivity, and personal, all exist.

We then talk to an expert who did not start off with selling a solution but asked for the problem. Was “My application doesn’t work” enough information to provide a solution? How did the representative get to the problem? It took an algorithm “A set of instructions or procedures for solving a problem.”

Just the facts – Developing a Problem Statement

Defining the problem is probably the most difficult phase of the Sales Mapping system.

This phase is the one most overlooked by salespeople and not enough time is dedicated to ensure the problem is clearly defined and understood.

Get the problem right and you will succeed in understanding the first part of consultative selling and getting a happy client.

Sales Mapping uses an algorithm in working with your client to get to a problem statement. Algorithms are step-by-step processes with decision points, giving you options as you complete the worksheet.

The parts of the “Sales Mapping Problem Statement Worksheet” are:

1) What problems are you (organization, company, department) having?

You would think that you would get the answer to the question, but you usually do not! What you do get is the solution or answer to the problem.

Let me explain with some examples of what you might hear when you ask what the problem is.

  • “We need a new system” This is the answer, not the problem.
  • “We need teamwork” This is the answer, not the problem.
  • “We need more sales” This is the answer, not the problem.
  • “We need to save money” This is the answer, not the problem.
  • “We need sales training” This is the answer, not the problem.

This happens because the client has been so close to the problem, they actually know what they need.

2) Who else is impacted by this problem?

It is not unusual for a problem to overlap with other problems. “Follow the money” is one of the phrases we often hear and, in this case, it’s “Follow the problem.”

Follow the problem the same way the technical repre­sentative did in locating the source of the problem in our hypothetical PC application problem.

Often, people within the company have conflicting answers to the problem. Sales are lost because salespeople fail to find out all of the problems in all of the areas.

Think back in your own experiences to what caused you a problem because the other department had not fixed their problem.

What happens if the Sales Force Automation tool is not working correctly and you are unable to update your forecast?

  1. The problem is in the software, and the information technology (IT) department is working with the vendor to get it fixed. Meanwhile;
  2. Because you are unable to get your update done, the sales manager cannot get the forecast to the regional sales VP.
  3. The regional sales VP cannot get the forecast update to the CEO.
  4. The CEO cannot update the board.
  5. The Chairman of the Board says, “Unacceptable, we need a forecast.”
  6. The President goes back down the chain asking for an update, even if has to be compiled manually. Finally it gets back to you to stop whatever you are doing so you can get the forecast submitted.

You get the idea. The problem may be the software, but this is causing problems for different people in different areas and this is impacting productivity, etc.

Why is this important? A complex sale can be defined by “How many yes’s” and by “whom will it take to close the business?”

How does this problem impact your customer?

Find out how each of these problems impact the service or product you deliver to your client. You must also determine how this problem impacts the delivery of their service or product to their client.

What caused or contributed to this problem?

Find out as much as you can about the source of the problem.

How long have you had the problem?

This could reveal an unwillingness to allocate resources or the lack of a “Way” or the “Will” to get it fixed.

What will happen if this problem continues? How bad is it going to have to get?

The question is: “Has the event occurred that has motivated the person or organization to change?” Are they ready to take action?

What have you already done to solve the problem?

If the company with the problem has not exhausted their resources, you may not have an opportunity. People will have different ideas on what the problem is and this also reflects on how they attempt to solve it. How many ways can you solve a problem? Depends on how many people you talked to. Knowing what has already been tried helps in developing a solution.

8) Are we fixing the right problem?

Ask this question: “Is there anything we have not discussed that could become an obstacle?” I almost always get information about the problem that turns out to be vital in understanding the scope of the problem.

The above list is not suggested to be complete, but it should be added to your specific list.

Creating the problem statement

Failure comes from the problem being poorly defined and lacking specifics. Until you get a problem statement and your client agrees with your assessment, you could be solving the wrong problem, delivering the wrong solution, and spend­ing the client’s money, without getting the core problem fixed.

Bottom Line: Unhappy clients do not get you references or more clients.

Begin developing the problem statement with the following template.

The problem we are having is…………………..

and this causes………………….

these problems…………………..

for……………………….

If the problem continues, this will happen:………….

In fact, this problem has already limited us from getting…………..

Only when your client agrees with this statement, are you able to move on to the next step.

Summary

Buyers must have a:

  • Want to buy because they are motivated to taking action.
  • Way to succeed by having the resources committed to the objectives.
  • Will to get over obstacles put in the way of achieving the goals.

Businesses are looking to:

  • Get more clients
  • Keep their clients
  • Make money
  • Save money
  • Be more productive.

But, first they must:

  • Accept that change is difficult, but it has a personal payoff.
  • Spend the time to get to the source of the problem.
  • Realize that, until the client agrees with the problem statement, it is not right.

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