Customers Don’t Want Their Problems Solved


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Most of them know how to solve their problems. Most of the time a salesperson is not invited to the table till 60% of the decision process is already completed. If you are there to tell the customer that 1 + 1 = 2, you are there responding to a request for a proposal and nothing more. You might as well be a clerk. I learned a long time ago from Zig Ziglar, in one of his many stories, that when he was walking into an office one day, he overheard someone say, “It’s just another salesperson.” He thought about it for a moment and decided not to disappoint them.

In this day and age, no longer can a salesperson just be a problem solver. What the customer is looking for is a new math where 1 +1 = 3. Quit viewing the customer as having a problem to solve. Instead challenge your Sales and Marketing Teams to compliment customers in such a way that you create opportunities that they would not have had without you. In a sporting sense we don’t hire coaches to create winning teams, we hire coaches to create playoff and championship teams.

Lean Salespeople are Challengers, not Problem Solvers 

We talk about customer experience and customer delighters. I think sometimes that leads us to the wrong conclusions. I think we sell customers short. I think customers are willing to do more work. I think customers are willing to suffer a little if the opportunity is there for greater gain. I think they choose business partners that they think will get them there and be there no matter what the struggles are.

They also choose their business partners based on their capabilities. Think about how many times you have went into the organization and demonstrated that if they changed to your way of thinking, you would make money for them. It is no brainer? The problem is that the customer has to limit their scope. They understand their capabilities, and that also means their learning capabilities better than you do. They know what they can absorb. Smart organizations, like Apple, know when to say NO! In my conversations with successful Lean Transformation leaders, every one of them has told they wish they would have attempted less not more.

Gaining New Insights into the Sales Process

It is not about, your product and how well it will work and what problem it will solve. It is about the challenges that the customer has prioritized and is willing to act on. Quit thinking I have the solution. Start thinking what is my customer’s challenge?

Today’s salesperson has to understand that challenge from a corporate and individual perspective. They must understand the current position and desired outcomes of all parties. After understanding, they must demonstrate how combining forces will allow those outcomes to be realized and surpass the customer’s expectations. Would that be a Delighter?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Dager
Business901 is a firm specializing in bringing the continuous improvement process to the sales and marketing arena. He has authored the books the Lean Marketing House, Marketing with A3 and Marketing with PDCA. The Business901 Blog and Podcast includes many leading edge thinkers and has been featured numerous times for its contributions to the Bloomberg's Business Week Exchange.


  1. Well, if customers have problems or complaints, often they don’t express them, even in B2B situations where the relationships between salespeople and customers are usually tighter; and, if there’s an alternative supplier offering equal or greater value (and fewer, or no, problems), the impatient and benefit-seeking customer won’t hesitate to defect. If customer-centricity and customer loyalty behavior is an enterprise priority, any company would be wise to have a complaint management (hopefully proactive, rather than reactive) and risk mitigation protocol and set of processes in place.

    I’ve addressed this subject many times, including a CustomerThink blog:


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