Are sales people working on a Symptom or a Problem?

We have often found in working with our clients that their sales people are working on a “symptom” vs. the “problem”. Unfortunately, as long as you are working on a symptom it will be difficult to get your prospect to identify whether or not they are someone you can do business with. Right now, you have deals in process where you may be stalled because you are working on the “symptom” and not the “problem”.

We find the issue that follows is a good examples of the symptom vs. problem dilemma:
Symptom: ”We need more time to think this through”. Most salespeople, thinking the problem is they need more time, respond with “when should we get back to you? ”This response addresses the symptom… Not the problem.

Problem: The “symptom” need more time is driven by the problem which is: they are not 100% convinced that they need or can benefit from what you have. Letting the prospect have more time is the strategy that deals with the symptom and not the problem.

Needing more time can also be driven by one of these problems:
They are not the real decision maker and can’t say yes.
They don’t feel like what you have proposed is the right solution.
They are not good at selling internally to their people and can’t justify the purchase.
They can’t go to their current vendor and tell him he’s been replaced.
They don’t have a compelling reason to make a change

A typical sales response like “why do you hesitate?” will often put pressure on your prospect. A good response that will help you get to the real problem might be “maybe you shouldn’t do this at all?

This negative reverse response is contrary to what they are expecting and takes the pressure away. Now they might actually reveal the problem by saying…
“Yes, we’ve decided not to buy… Or, we’re just not sure it’s the right decision for us.” Either one is O.K., because now we can decide how best to proceed. Finding the real problems will give you the ability to move forward in the selling process
Some other examples of symptoms vs. problems are:
“Your price is too high” is never the problem. The problem is your prospect “doesn’t believe you are worth what you are asking” .
“Timing is not right” is never the problem. “I don’t have the belief that I pay a penalty not to buy from you” is always the problem
“My people want to wait on this” is never the problem. “I didn’t have the conviction when I presented it to our people” is the problem.

Don’t let prospects fool you by their excuses. As a sales professional, you have to take the responsibility to insure that you are both working on the problem. You can’t help your prospect by working on the symptom!

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