stops selling and solve the business problemIf you are simply selling the features and functions of your products and services, then you are not solving the client’s business problem. Not only have I seen this many times in deal reviews, but I had fallen for it earlier in my sales career:  sales would come up with reasons why people should buy their products and services and then sell to those reasons, without a true sense of what the customer is trying to achieve.

I was in a deal review with a client and they were explaining their client’s need for the products and services they offer. They told me that their client has a large group of people who are manually doing the work that their product can automate. “But how do your products and services solve the business problem?” I kept asking this question, but no one could answer it.

The truth is, clients only spend money when it helps them make money, save money or reduce risk. Taking the above example, here are five key questions the sales team could have asked themselves:

  • Return on investment:  Will the cost of reducing headcount pay for the products, services and infrastructure we’re trying to sell the client?
  • Business priority:  Is automating manual processes one of the top priorities for the client?
  • Risk aversion:  Is the client willing to implement our solution and take the risk of disruption, when the manual process may be working just fine and is cost efficient to the business?
  • Risk management:  Does the client have risk preventions in place to minimize errors with the current manual process?
  • Understand the business problem:  Do we have the ability to actually solve the client’s business problem when we’re not really sure what it is?

To solve the business problem, get to the right decision makers and ask what is important to them. Don’t fall into the trap of hearing that they want to make money or save money or improve customer satisfaction. Those are all great aspirations, but you need to probe and get more specific about the desired business outcomes that affect the executive’s MBOs. And, just because you can automate what is currently a manual process does not necessarily mean it will solve the business problem. Ask questions, probe, provoke and be insanely curious to try to understand the business problem that the client is trying to solve.


Janice MarsJanice Mars, principal and founder of SalesLatitude, is a senior business and sales executive with more than 30 years of experience helping companies build successful sales teams. She has parlayed that experience to help her clients to improve their sales processes, accurately forecast revenues, ensure focus on winnable opportunities, and attain consistent results. View my LinkedIn profile | Twitter