We’ve all experienced it before. The annoying pop-up ads that won’t go away, the pesky flyers in your mailbox, and the salesmen who won’t stop calling you. If you’re not interested in what a business is selling, then most of these communications can feel like an inescapable nuisance—yet it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly why we feel so bothered by them. In fact, a lot of it comes down to one thing: value. Instead of adding value to our lives, most forms of selling detract it in the form of time.
If you’re someone who has something to sell, this can leave you in a bit of a pickle. How can you break through all the sales and advertising noise in a way that piques the interest of potential customers? How can you add value? Well, fortunately for businesses everywhere, there is one surefire way that you can provide value to your prospects and reduce friction in the selling process. How, you ask? By solving their problems! Problem-solving is a method of selling that feels more like you’re providing a useful service than hawking your product. Let’s take a look at how it might unfold.
The First Step: Identifying the Problem
In order to solve a problem, you first need to be able to identify it. Luckily, you probably already have a pretty solid head start. Why? Well, most businesses exist because they solve some sort of problem. If you understand why your business exists and you’ve done your market research, then you’ll naturally understand the pain points your ideal customers have. With that information, all you need to do is help your client understand what that problem is and why your offering is the solution. However, it necessitates a little more tact than simply saying, “Oh, you have a problem with this? My [product/service] solves it!” Instead of speaking, you’ll need to rely on a different skill: active listening.
Getting to the Root of the Problem with Active Listening
Active listening is one of the most—if not the most—important skills when it comes to solving your potential clients’ problems. You’ll need to read between the lines of what they’re saying to you in order to ask questions, draw conclusions, and confirm those conclusions with the prospect. The real goal of active listening is getting to the why of everything the prospect is saying so you can truly understand how your solution will fix their problem. For example, if they say that their current system isn’t working, it doesn’t automatically mean that they want to run out and invest in yours instead. You need to make use of open-ended questions in order to dig down to the root of why the system isn’t working so that you can identify how yours will be a better fit.
Bring It Home by Solving the Problem
You may not even realize it, but during the process of identifying the prospect’s pain points, you’re already making significant progress in solving said problem. Every question you ask about their current situation, their motivations, and the end result they’re looking for is really setting the stage for what the solution should be. Now you just need to make the link and spell it out plainly for the prospect. Make sure to keep the focus of the discussion on solving the problem, not just selling your product. Instead of “My service will increase your conversion rate by conducting A/B testing,” you could frame it as, “It sounds like the improvement in conversion rate you’re looking for can be achieved by conducting A/B testing, would you like to know more about it?”
Sidebar: Honesty Is the Best Policy
At this point, it should be clear to you why your offering will fix the issues the client is having—or if it will even fix them at all. And that last part is important to remember, too. If your solution truly isn’t a good fit for the client, there’s a lot to be said for honesty. Being up front about these things can strengthen your credibility and reduce churn down the road. After all, while they might not need what you’re selling at the moment, they could need it in the future, and your candour will most likely have left a favourable impression.
Final Thoughts on Solving Clients’ Problems
Selling is as much an art as it is a science. Of course, there are myriad social skills and conversational tactics that help the best salespeople get ahead, but there are also frameworks that you can learn and apply in order to get things moving in the right direction. By taking an active role in solving a problem that a client has, you can cut through the noise by bringing real value to the table—and hopefully, a sale.