Behind every product or service lies the solution to a real problem – Behold! The “Gap.” Understanding and selling your customer’s Gap and crafting your sales strategy to overcome it is critical to selling success.
At Carew, you will hear us talk a lot about the Gap. So, what exactly is it? The Gap is what exists between your customer’s ideal and actual – the Gap between what could be and what is. Gaps are always outcome-oriented and can almost always have an up or down arrow associated with them. Gaps can be tangible things like dollars and percentages or intangible things like employee morale, happiness, etc.
13 Key Elements of Problem-Centric Selling, an article published by the Forbes Business Development Council, phrased selling the Gap perfectly – “It starts with truly understanding the customer’s challenges: what are they solving for and what are the gaps from where they are at today (ie. their current state), and where do they want to go (ie. their ideal future state). Too often, sellers are solving for the symptoms and not the root cause.” This article is an excellent read about diagnosing customer problems, uncovering Gaps, and coming to a solution with your product or service.
It can be easy to sometimes confuse Facts for Gaps. During our sales training programs, we like to say that Facts are the “what,” and Gaps are the “why.”
For Example: A Fact could be the need for your customer to have new, more dynamic software. But, of far greater strategic value to you is the Gap. WHY does your customer need new, more dynamic software? Is it…
- To decrease customer complaints
- To decrease the expense associated with pursuing poorly targeted customers
- To increase productivity
Notice the words “increase” and “decrease”. If your product or service will help your customer increase – productivity, profits, margins, customer satisfaction, market share, etc., or decrease – expenses, complaints, downtime, etc. – you have now uncovered the Gap.
Sometimes, the customer is aware of the outcome they seek. Oftentimes, however, skillful use of a sound, diagnostic questioning process will help customers develop a much deeper awareness of what they seek and why they seek it.
Make no mistake, Facts are essential. It would be difficult to configure a system without them. However, do not lose sight of your customer’s desired outcomes. You must challenge yourself to translate your product or service’s features and advantages into benefits to help your customer realize their Gap.
What happens all too frequently is that we become so wrapped up in our products or services that we forget that our customers’ or prospects’ interests lie in their own business. Customers buy when they realize value for themselves and their organizations.
Carew Pro Tips:
- Questions are critical to helping you uncover your customer’s Gap. However, it’s your customer’s answers that really count! The answers are what help you uncover the desired outcome your customer seeks.
- Dive into your current Strategic Selling Plans with your biggest customers and ensure you have a big Gap, not a small one. If you have a small one, reach out, set up a meeting, and ask the right questions to uncover their true Gap. Worst case scenario – you find there are no new Gaps and continue business as is with the customer. BUT even if that’s the case, you’ve put in some positive contact and have shown them you want to be a resource.
- If you can ask the customer why a goal is important to them and/or what the impact can be should they reach it, then ask it!
- Remember, every decision maker has a different set of concerns and a different set of needs both as individuals and for their portion of the organization. A CEO will be very concerned about the bottom-line impact versus the Vice President of Marketing, who may only be primarily concerned with the advertising impact. According to Gartner, the typical buying group for a B2B solution now involves 6-10 decision-makers.
- Sales professionals waste untold opportunities because they fail to allow their customers to think out loud. Let your customers do this!