Boost your sales with problem identification, not problem solving

Are you engaged in problem identification or problem solving? Are you identifying problems, or solving problems identified? Confused?

Well, if you are selling in a hardware shop and a customer comes in stating, “I want a drill,” do you sell him one, or do you find out why (or what for)? If you do the former you have solved a problem. If you do the latter, you have identified a problem. And why is that a problem? Well, if you told a doctor, “I have a splitting headache” and he solved that problem saying, “Here. Take these painkillers and have a nice day,” how would you feel? And how would you feel if he sought to identify the problem saying, “I’m sorry to hear that. Let’s find out what the matter could be?” Such is the power of problem identification. Also known as discovery, it is a sales strategy for success.

Read: How to ask insightful questions and why they are necessary for a bigger sale

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Problem identification vs problem solving

Drive your sales performance with problem identification, not mere problem solving. Instead of jumping straight into problem-solving mode, take a step back to identify the root cause of the issue. “This is the third kettle I’ve bought from you and it has also blown!” the fuming customer explodes. “Something is wrong with your kettles. I want a refund.” Repeating for the third time that no-one else has complained, you have a no-refund policy and he best try a different one is solving a problem. Getting into problem identification mode is more productive.

Try, “I’m so sorry to hear that. Merely giving you a fourth kettle may not be useful. I’m curious to find out why this is happening because all the other customers really like it. Is that OK?” And guess what? Turns out the problem is not the kettle but the borehole water he uses. Armed with this insight, you then sell him a kettle designed to boil borehole water.

Now, at the very first purchase, to the statement, “I want to buy an electric kettle,” if you had asked, “May I know the kind of water you use? It will help me identify a suitable kettle,” you’d be having a contented advocate and not have to handle an angry customer.

problem identification or problem solving

Uses of Problem Identification: A Game-Changer in Sales

Problem identification is the unsung hero of salesmanship, often overshadowed by the allure of problem-solving. Yet, in the labyrinth of consumer needs and desires, it is the keen ability to identify problems that sets successful salespeople and business owners apart. According to one survey, 67% of successful sales professionals attribute their success to their ability to identify customer pain points effectively. For example, in the opening scene, most likely it’s not a drill he wants but a hole in the wall. And further probing may reveal it’s really hanging picture he wants. With this revelation, you may solve his actual problem by inviting him to consider buying non-intrusive stick-on hooks instead. “They even come in different colours that can complement the colours on your wall.”

Here’s another more complex instance. The prospect says, “We have a $60,000 engagement for a technical architecture development for an application we are starting to build.” Blinded by zinging dollar signs, problem solving excitedly says, “Sure. We can do it.” And then it is immediately equated to the competition. It is commoditized. But problem identification, asks, “Why?” and continues to drill down until the actual reason emerges: “We need the best system for investment banks in the industry.” And the price tag? $6,000,000.

Read: Seek first to understand, not to close

Practical Strategies: Mastering the art of pinpointing customer pain points

In the world of sales, problem identification isn’t just about spotting issues; it’s about empathizing with customers, understanding their needs, and anticipating their actual pain points before they even vocalize them. You see, like a patient, customers don’t know their problem. When you merely solve their symptoms, you inadvertently energize this position. That is mediocre salesmanship and in the long run will come back to bite you. How? When the angry customer, feeling betrayed, accuses you of deliberately not telling him the problem was with his water and not the kettle, for the sake of more sales.  It will not matter that you didn’t know. You (and your store) will be at fault.

Read: Sellers must be good advisors if customer is to be king

Unlocking Opportunities: Benefits of problem identification

In conclusion, while problem-solving is essential, problem identification reigns supreme in the realm of salesmanship. To boost your sales, solve problems identified, not shared. By mastering the art of pinpointing customer pain points, sales professionals can unlock new opportunities, foster stronger relationships, and drive business growth. So, ask yourself: Are you merely solving problems, or are you uncovering opportunities through problem identification?

Read: Open the B2B sales call with customer insight


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