Join Jeff Bloomfield for an in-depth discussion in this video Understanding your customer's issues, part of Sales Foundations.
- Have you ever been on a conversation with a salesperson where you were amazed at just how focused they were on the product without really the slightest desire to understand what you really needed? I had this happen to me a couple of weeks ago, a salesperson who was selling software made a call on me, he started off right out of the gate telling me how great their system was, and how other clients were just raving about them. He then asked me if I minded if he shared a few of the new and exciting features that their upgraded system could do, you know, you've heard this before.
20 minutes later, I was bored, and he hadn't even asked me one question about my business. When it comes to understanding the customer's issues, there are two basic points of reference. The first point is derived from the research you do prior to the meeting, where you have a pretty good idea of what the customer issues are. The second area of reference is when you uncover the issues while you're actually meeting with the customer. The pitfall many sales professionals fall into is thinking they know what the customer's issues are before they arrive and then spending their time trying to convince the customer why their solution solves the problem.
The key is to understand the customer's issues through their lens, not yours. The only way to do this is to ask experiential questions that allow the customer to really dig deep into their issues. If I were the software salesperson I mentioned earlier, here would be a great question to get the ball rolling, "Jeff, in your experience as a business owner, "what type of activities do you personally spend "in a given week that are focused "on new-business acquisition?" Now, notice the question wasn't directly related to his product.
When you think of a CRM, or, Customer Relationship Management Software product, what problem does it eventually solve? It solves a host of problems, but primarily helps a business input, track, and organize sales activities from initial contact to customer acquisition. By asking me what activities I personally spend on sales, this salesperson is allowing me to elaborate on how I gain new customers. How I answer that question will give him vast amounts of potential, gaps in my process that his software can eventually help with.
Now let me introduce you to the easiest, yet most powerful framework under the sun, that will help you navigate this crucial sales success area, it's called The 4 I's. The first I is to uncover the issue. If there's more than one issue, it's very important to help the customer prioritize them, that way you can address the most urgent issues. The second I to identify is the impact the issue is having on the customer. This is where you will quantify the problem, if you fail to quantify the problem, then the customer won't have a relative comparison to value when you reveal the price of your solution.
For example, if the aforementioned CRM software is shown to help convert 20% more customers per week, and I see, on average, 10 prospects per week, then the solution will help me gain two additional new customers per week. Now, if each customer is worth, on average, $2,000 to me, then I will gain $4,000 in new business each week, or $16,000 each month, just by using this software. Now you can see how important quantifying the issue is.
The third I is invasiveness. This is really a subset of impact, but reaches across the customer's organization and looks for the broader impact the issue may have. For example, if I can't improve my new-business acquisition, then I can't hire more people, or worse yet, I may have to lay people off. Invasiveness can be any larger impact on the business that results in not solving this particular problem. The final I is iceberg.
This is the giant barrier that has prevented the customer from solving the problem prior to your meeting. Generally speaking, icebergs tend to be knowledge, time, and or budget or money. By addressing this area, you will reveal any potential objections the customer may have as to what will prevent them from moving forward with your solution. So let's put it all together so you can see the implications of how effective the framework can be. You have uncovered the main issue, which is the lack of new customer growth.
You have determined that each customer is worth $2,000 to your customer, so the impact has been quantified. You have discussed the implications of what could potentially happen if your customer fails to gain new business, like the layoffs, et cetera. And you realize through your questions, that this customer simply didn't have the knowledge to solve this problem with the solution like your software. You have essentially framed up the problem in the mind of the customer, as a $16,000 per month issue.
Well your software system is only $900 per month at full list price. Now, if you were the customer, would you pay $900 per month, to gain $16,000 in new business? Where do I sign, right? Asking insightful questions focuses on the customer's issues and utilizing The 4 I's framework will position you perfectly as a trusted adviser, who is ready to help solve the customer's problem.
- The philosophy of sales
- Identifying potential customers
- Exploring buying motivators
- Communicating the power of your solution
- Developing an effective sales process