Benchmark Business Group

Lead Conversion: Stop Selling and Start Solving

July 5, 2010

Several years ago, after going through month after frustrating month of unsuccessful sales conversations, a great friend and mentor gave me some advice that completely changed my world.  He said, "Why don't you stop selling and start solving problems?"  For me, that caused the lights to go on in several parts of my stubborn brain, including the part that regulates anxiety.  What a relief!  I don't have to try to sell anything at all...I just have to help people satisfy their needs and solve their problems!

That one thought immediately turned the selling conversation on its head.  It's not about the features and benefits of your products and services and how yours is better than theirs or  how yours is so much more affordable and on and on and on.  It's about your prospect, what's working for them and what's not, what's missing in their world that they feel they need, what's driving them crazy and would they like it to change, and what is the gap between where they are now and where they'd like to be.  Whether your dealing with someone who wants to remodel part of their home, would like to have a newer phone with more apps, would like their teeth to look better, would like to run their business better, or want to have a certain style of jeans, it's the same focus, if not the same conversation.

You don't learn what those things are by incessantly moving your mouth.  You only discover those things by asking thoughtful, genuinely sincere and open-ended questions, then shutting your mouth and carefully and quietly listening to what they have to say.  And guess what?  They'll tell you...on one condition:  they trust you, or at least, have a good feeling about you.  And that happens, almost without fail, when you are genuinely sincere (there's that phrase again) and when you show a true and genuine interest in your prospective customer or client.

A good rule of thumb is that no less than 80% of your conversations with a prospect should consist of asking questions and carefully listening to uncover the true need the prospect has.  Occasionally, throughout the conversation, it is a good practice to repeat back to the prospect what you have heard and ask if your understanding is accurate or if it needs more clarification.  This helps you become clear, reinforces the issue with the prospect, and makes the prospect feel heard and understood.  That will be critical when you begin discussing solutions.  It means your diagnosis will be more accurate, and if your prospect believes your diagnosis, they are much more likely to buy your prescription.

In many cases, the prospect isn't even clear themselves on what they need, and they are as much in the process of discovery during the conversation as you are!  In many cases the conversation results in clarity they didn't have before, and that is indeed a gift you are giving to them.  Remember, the only reason they're even having a conversation with you in the first place is they have made a decision at some level of consciousness there is a problem they need to solve or a need to fulfill, even if they're not entirely clear about what it is themselves.

It's your primary job to discover it, uncover it, shine a light on it, and make sure you and your prospect are both clear about it.  Then, and only then, can you take the next steps of offering the solution and determining if your prospect is ready to buy.  That part of the conversation will be a topic for another article.

So, in the meantime, ask...listen...ask...listen...ask...listen, and listen some more.  Oh, and the friend and mentor who gave me the advice several years ago?  It was Michael Gerber, best selling author of the E-Myth books...and he still asks me the same question now and then,  "Are you selling, or solving?"

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