Sitting With The Problem


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Often, both we and our customers seem to rush through the buying process. Sometimes, we both move forward without really understanding the problem we seek to solve.

Perhaps the customer has done a lot of research on what they think they want to buy. They’ve formed some opinions, narrowed alternatives to a short list, and are ready to move to a selection and decision.

Sometimes, that’s effective. For knowledgeable, educated customers, who have bought frequently, it may work. They know the issues they face very well, they understand the alternatives, pros/cons, and can make a very good decision.

Other times, customers rush blindly. They think they may know the issues, they think they may understand the problem, they think they may be able to determine their needs and requirements, leveraging web and other research.

But often, they may not really understand the problem. They may not have clarity about what they are trying to achieve. They may not know how to determine and prioritize needs or requirements. Not that they are dumb, but because they’ve never spent a lot of time on the issues, they may not know what they should be looking for, how they should align themselves in solving the problem, or even the process they should go through in making a decision. While I’ve overused this example, how many times in a CFO’s career does she buy a new financial system. If she is lucky, once, possibly 2-3 times. So she can’t be an expert at solving this problem.

In some cases, they are embarking on something major and new. Addressing a new market, introducing a brand new process, changing their operations in a significant way. Their lack of experience with these new approaches may cause them to overlook things, underestimate other things, or just plain forget something.

Sometimes, they just get task focused and on autopilot. They muscle their way through the buying process and making a decision, without really understanding what they want to achieve.

Sometimes, we sales people don’t help our customers very much. Sometimes, we are in such a rush to get an order, we get caught up in moving forward with the customer.

But are we really creating the most value? Are we really serving our customers in the best way by rushing through the buying process. Particularly with very complex decisions which require great changes, or pose great risk for the customer.

Sometimes, we may better serve our customers by slowing them down. Perhaps letting them “Sit With The Problem.”

Sitting with the problem can be very powerful. Too often, buyers get caught up in thinking they understand their needs and requirements. They assess products, inevitably building checklists of features, functions, or capabilities. They may lose sight of what they are trying to achieve.

Helping the customer go back to basics, perhaps starting with a blank sheet of paper and reviewing, “What is it that we are trying to do?” “Why?” “What if we did nothing?” “What are the risks of doing nothing, what are the risks of the new solutions?” “How do we best make a decision, engaging all the stakeholders.” “How do we measure success.”

It can be more detailed. “What are our needs and requirements?” “What do we mean by each each requirement?” “Why is it important?” “As we assess our requirements, what’s most important, why?”

Reflecting on what they are trying to achieve, why, what’s critical in doing what they are doing is critical, but too often poorly done.

As I mentioned earlier, rather they focusing on these, they use features, functions, capabilities of solutions as a surrogate. And often, because they don’t know, because they haven’t “Sat With The Problem,” they opt for the solutions that has the most–just as an insurance policy, not because it solves their problem.

Sitting With The Problem, reflecting, getting great clarity in what they are trying to achieve is critical. As sales people, we have the responsibility to help the customer to do this–if we are to be their trusted advisors.

Editorial Note: Daniel, thanks so much for this idea. Hope I did it justice in this post!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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