Problem Solving: The Key to Success or a State of Mind?

October 13, 2016  |  Posted by in Sales Training

In recent weeks, we have been examining three key attributes of successful sales performers: communication skills, effective leadership and proactive problem solving. The third attribute, problem solving, is also the topic of my recent interview with Gerhard Gschwandtner of Selling Power magazine. Here are some lesser known facts about effective problem solving:

  1. It is more about the right mindset than it is about IQ, analytical or critical thinking skills
  2. It cannot take place without an established and trusting relationship
  3. Valuable insight is the final step/deliverable

Mindset: Historically, sales professionals have had solutions in search of problems; but if we want to serve in a consultative capacity (not “consultative selling”), we must change our own mindset about what it is we are selling. Sales professionals who act as business advisors to their customers are not selling a specific product or service, they are selling solutions to their customers’ business challenges. To transform to this mindset you have to be willing to uncover, understand and clarify the issues your customers are experiencing. These advisors are resources to help customers successfully discover and solve problems and create a better experience for their customers.

Relationship: Consider the most successful sales professionals in your organization – specifically the nature of their relationship with customers. They have exceptionally close relationships with their customers, with nearly unlimited access at multiple organizational levels and disciplines. Customers likely come to these sales professionals for help and advice on a broad spectrum of issues. How does a sales professional get to this place? It is not a slick brochure or catchy email blast that cultivates this dynamic. This level of customer engagement is the by-product of a strong relationship cultivated over time throughout the organization. It is moving beyond the lobby of the building to the depths of the organization and across multiple functions.

Insight: If we equate this final deliverable with the whole of problem solving, we will not succeed. With the right mindset and a strong relationship in place, then, and only then, can we set about delivering valuable insight. Insights are important as they establish a new way of thinking for our customers, challenging the norms of an organization in a way that has meaning. It becomes a lens through which to look at a problem or opportunity with a whole new perspective. To do this, we need a deep and well-networked relationship and a thorough understanding of our customers’ needs, concerns, challenges and objectives – and we need to understand each of these on both an organizational and personal level. This is precisely why we need to be armed with advanced listening skills and a proven exploratory process for every customer interaction.

Problem solving is perhaps our greatest opportunity to provide value to our customers; having the opportunity to act in this capacity is symptomatic of superior selling skills and practices.

View my recent interview with Gerhard Gschwandtner of Selling Power magazine, or my keynote presentation from Sales 2.0, Cracking the Code: Understanding and Replicating the Genome of Your Best Sales Performers.

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