One of the most challenging things for sales leaders and salespeople to comprehend is understanding the difference between needs, issues, problems, quantification and a prospect’s compelling reasons to buy from you. For some in sales, these five things are essentially the same. For others, the differences represent nuances that don’t need to be further explored. Most salespeople ignore all five of these topics all together; choosing to focus on features and benefits instead. I would really like to help everyone to at least understand the differences between these five topics so that they would like to learn more, become more effective, and win more business.
When it comes to examples, it tends to be difficult for salespeople in one business or industry to understand the examples we use for prospects in another business or industry. In consideration of our readers and all of the various industries from which they come the most common area of understanding is probably with this industry that we are all participating in at this moment – with me as your sales expert and you as my reader – the sales training and development industry.
Let’s pretend that a CEO contacts me and suggests that their company needs sales training. There – you have your need and it is that simple. The challenge for salespeople who believe that all they need is the need is that they may very well attempt to provide the wrong solution! Read on…
Next, I ask a question about the stated need. “Why do you think you need sales training?”
The CEO explains that the sales cycle is getting quite long, the win rate is down and he believes his salespeople might need some fine-tuning. There you have your issue. Once again, a large percentage of salespeople would now address how they can help with fine tuning but that may be the wrong solution.
My follow up question asks the CEO if he has any idea why this might be happening and he says he doesn’t. I ask whether it could be the result of any of these 10 things:
- Poor sales selection
- Ineffective on boarding
- Sales DNA
- Skill gaps
- Ineffective sales coaching
- Lack of accountability
- Poor targeting
- Ineffective qualifying
I would go on and on and on about possible reasons. Typically, the CEO will tell me that he doesn’t know. There’s your problem –not sales training, not sales cycle or win rate, but lack of information.
Next, I would ask about the impact: “How long has this been going on? And as a result of the longer sales cycle and lower win rate, how has this impacted your financial plan? What is your current revenue and where should it have been at this point”? Let’s pretend that he says, “We’re at $15 Million but we were supposed to be at $25 Million. $10 million is the quantification.
Finally, I ask how this is affecting the CEO – what it’s doing to him, how he feels, if there is board pressure, whether his job is in jeopardy, if the stress has spilled over to family, etc. He might say that the board has been placing a lot of pressure on him, he’s working extra hours, he’s irritable at home, and his wife has given him an ultimatum. That becomes his compelling reason to buy from me.
My solution would not be sales training – the very thing the CEO called in to ask about. Why? Because sales training was not his problem. The problem is the lack of information! So my solution would have to reduce his stress, save his job, please his wife (his compelling reason to buy) and provide him with the answers that will identify and explain the cause of his longer sales cycle and worsening win rate and recommend action steps.
If this was a real situation, I would win this business over my competition because I understood it better, found the cause and the real problem, and identified his compelling reason to buy from me. I’ll be the only salesperson addressing what really needs to be addressed.