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How To Tell If You're Focused on the Problem

by Doug Davidoff | Jul 12, 2010 3:56:54 AM

If I had but one wish I could grant to anyone selling, it would be the ability to recognize whether they are having a conversation about a problem or a conversation about a solution.

    • A conversation about a solution is highly commoditized and causes the focus to be on what’s it cost.

    • A conversation about a problem creates value and causes the focus to be on what’s it worth.

At Imagine, we define a problem as something important to someone not performing the way they want it to.  By that definition, there are two types of problems; what we call opportunity problems (sort of like good problems) and trouble problems.  The key to getting your product/service properly valued is to ensure that the context of your sales effort is focused on the problem the customer has and the consequences of not addressing it.

The problem with the vast, vast majority of salespeople (defined as anyone selling) is that even when they think they’re focused on the problem, they’re really focused on the solution.  Until they become aware of that, they can’t do anything about it.

The first step in getting from a left-side (commodity/cost) focus to the right side (differentiating/worth) focus is to identify a clear gap in performance.


You help people reduce the costs of their operation by implementing a technology that enhances workflow processes.

If the conversation is focused on your ability to enhance workflow processes and its impact, then you are having a solution-oriented conversation and in all likelihood you will be commoditized.  That means lower closing rates and tighter margins.

If the conversation is focused on the customer/prospects costs, cost structure, and their efforts to control and reduce costs – you are on your way to a radically different sales conversation that creates value.

If, further, you are discussing the gaps and shortfalls in the customer/prospects approach and the total impact those gaps are causing – you’re having a problem-focused conversation and will be rewarded with dramatically higher closing rates and enhanced margins.

Next time you’re having a sales conversation, be certain which type you are having.