“Sorry, Sir. You’re unable to cash this cheque over the counter, as it’s not opened,” the cashier at my bank explained. I cursed under my breath. I knew this! What a silly and, about to be, costly mistake in terms of time wasted looking for the other signatories and queuing afresh, I had made! In the split second these thoughts crossed my mind, the cashier had seen the anguish on my face and was asking if I had an account at the bank. I said yes, and she proceeded to advise me to deposit the cheque into my personal account and withdraw the money via the ATM. My frustration turned to celebration. In an instant, she had moved from dwelling on a problem to offering a solution. Though this happened several years ago, the memory still puts a smile on my face. Focus on sales solutions not product problems. In any case, every product has limitations.
If you focus on the problem, you can’t see the solution
Meantime, two weeks before, I’d gone to pay my electricity bill at Kenya Power’s banking hall. When I got to this cashier and asked her for one of the slips of paper availed for customers to write their account numbers on, she made an “arrgh!” sound. I then asked her for her pen, and whatever iota of patience she had remaining snapped. “Arrgh!” she screamed louder. On querying what the matter was she angrily complained how “all of us customers” come there to ask her for a pen and paper. Intrigued by her irritation, I suggested she has a pen placed on the customer’s side of the counter like banks do.
This common sense approach (at least to me) set her off. “Arrrgh!” she repeated angrier still, “There are pens and paper out there by the pillars for customers!” And so, I pointed at the papers right next to her and asked, “So why do you have these here?”. She turned red!
Take problem solution approach in sales. Focus on sales solutions not problems.
Now then. The difference between my cashier at the bank and this one was that the former was solution oriented and the latter, problem oriented. Progressive customer facing staff (front-office and sales people) know that movement along the sales cycle is achieved by being solution oriented. Customers and prospects don’t what to be told what cannot work! They want to know how it can work. Even when a blunder has occurred, an apology is welcome but more importantly what they want is a solution. The error is something to think about, not dwell upon. This is the essence of sales recovery.
It is the same mindset that permeates the successful entrepreneur – the unflinching belief that a solution will manifest. The entrepreneur takes it a notch higher, however. He will jump off the plane and figure out if and how the parachute works along the way down. Interestingly enough, most managers don’t want problems brought to them by direct reports, they want suggested solutions.
Focus on sales solutions not problems. What is a solution mindset?
Now then. One of the ways the progressive salesperson shows a solution orientation, is to get the prospect to sign application forms. Forms which the salesperson has already completed, or will do so later. Appreciating the apathy most people have towards completing application forms, he will not insist on what the rules and company policy dictates. No. He will not do so because the prospect simply doesn’t care about the policy. What he wants is the product the salesperson told him about; and what the salesperson wants, is to mould the clay before it dries.
Moving from problem focused to solution focused
In conclusion, focus on sales solutions not problems. This mindset of solution seeking does not imply callousness to rules or irresponsibility. Not at all. It’s a mindset that sees rules and policies for what they really are-guidelines, not deadlines; guideposts to steer the company within acceptable parameters, and not rigid deadlines to suffocate business growth. For example, a company policy may dictate that the company does not condone bribing. While some salespeople lament losing sales because of this, the progressive salesperson, who has an account he must bag, being solution oriented, uses his contacts to get a job for the son of the decision maker asking for the kickback.
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