"Solution Selling" teaches us that if we are to be successful we need to help our prospects solve a problem, deal with a pain, address an issue or achieve a goal. And that’s all well and good, but even more powerful if we can help them identify or acknowledge what’s holding them back...
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a great advocate for provocation-based selling - the idea that we should bring an issue to the attention of our prospect they may not yet have considered, and persuade them of the need for change. But in many cases your prospect already believes that they know what the issue is - they just haven’t worked out how (or whether) to deal with it yet.
What’s Holding Them Back?
In these situations, it helps to understand what’s been holding them back. If your sales people ask the right questions - and use the answers to take the conversation in the right direction - they will invariably learn something that’s of value to them, and share something of value with the prospect at the same time.
Are They Committed to Change?
If the problem, pain, issue or goal has been around for a while, it’s important to understand if and how the prospect may have tried to deal with it in the past. Uncovering a history of unsuccessful attempts to deal with the problem in house or with other vendors can provide valuable evidence of seriousness of the issue, the true nature of the problem, and of their determination to find a solution.
Why Deal With It Now?
You’ll want to understand why they feel that they need to deal with it now. This isn’t just a matter of uncovering a “compelling event” - although identifying one can clearly be helpful in establishing a sense of urgency. Your sales people need to understand why the prospect feels that now is the right time to deal with the situation - and if they can't uncover a compelling reason, be prepared to qualify out.
What Would Happen if They Did Nothing?
Whether or not a convenient “compelling event” exists or can be created, your sales people need to understand what would happen if the status quo were allowed to continue. What would be the consequences of a decision to simply do nothing? If a suitably strong answer can't be found to this question, your sales people either need to help their prospect create one - or be prepared to qualify the opportunity out.
Who Else Might Be Affected?
If the problem, pain, issue or goal is real, it’s unlikely that your existing contacts are the only ones who are suffering within the prospect. Your sales people need to be working with their current contacts and champions within the account to jointly identify all the other stakeholders who are likely to be affected if the problem isn’t addressed.
I think we’re all acutely aware that there are more interested parties and stakeholders in B2B buying decisions than ever before. Your sales person’s ability to establish strong connections with all those affected by the issue can make the difference between winning the deal and losing it to a decision to “do nothing”.
Your Qualification Checklist
Developing a better understanding what’s holding their prospects back can make a material difference to the number of your sales people who make quota - and to your overall sales performance. It will enable them to qualify the real deals more effectively, and to develop more effective strategies for winning them.
Here’s my summary of the key questions your sales people should be asking of every opportunity in their pipeline:
- Have you tried to deal with the situation before? If so, how and what were the results?
- Why is it important that you deal with the problem, pain, issue or goal now?
- What would happen if you simply decided to do nothing?
- Who else would be affected if the current situation continued, and how?
What’s Holding Your Organisation Back?
Asking great qualification questions like these are some of the foundation stones of building truly scalable businesses. You can learn more about some the other key factors that can either hold sales organisations back or drive their revenue growth forward in our latest guide to building scalable businesses.