Needs & Wants Are OK, But Problems Are Even Better

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

Businessman sat at desk with question marksOne of our clients approached us recently and said “I need you to run a motivation session for our sales team. Their figures are down and I want you to give them a boost”.

We discussed the situation with him, and asked why he felt that doing a quick ‘motivation session’ would solve the issue.

He replied that everything else was OK, so it can only be motivation that’s the problem.

In other words, he saw the solution tied up with something that was outside of his control, and it needed dealing with now!

We approached it from a different angle, and interviewed the sales team to find out if motivation really WAS the main issue.

We found that low morale was, in fact, the RESULT of everything else going on, rather than being the CAUSE of the decrease in sales.

The sales manager had seen the situation and had concluded the problem lay in the lack of drive from the sales team, when really the issue was further upstream.

Very often, our prospects will explain their needs in the form of a solution they have already thought of.

They think they need to do something and throw time, money and effort at it, only to see that effort peter out into a damp squib!

How many times have you been approached by a prospect who request a certain solution, and you know for a certainty it won’t be the BEST solution for their specific needs or circumstances?

We’ve often been asked by clients to come up with a solution they have already determined would work for them.

Often, they are right.

But many times they are derailed in their thinking by deciding on a solution that has worked before but is now out of date, or won’t actually work in this new situation.

In other words, the wants and needs of clients may not really be what they want or need!

It’s OK asking clients about their needs, but the whole reason you exist is to offer different perspectives, to help clients see possible alternative solutions and encourage them to think at a different level.

As the saying goes, ‘the level of thinking that got us to where we are today won’t solve the problems of tomorrow!’

Instead, we need to put the emphasis on what problems the current situation is causing and how those problems can be eradicated or overcome with different levels of thinking.

Remember, your client will be considering a solution from the perspective they have.

It will revolve around their current situation and how they want to ‘make it better’.

The issue is, though, that they may be looking at past solutions and think the same will apply today.

You will know, through your research and forward-thinking, that the old solutions, built on the old ways of thinking, won’t always work anymore.

Here’s an example of what we mean:

A client approaches you and says:

“We need to increase our productivity by ten per cent. What can you do to help us?”

Your discussions may well revolve around the solutions that will give them a ten per cent improvement in productivity.

But the issue may not be that simple.

Your solution may increase the productivity, but at what cost?

Would your solution increase overheads or have a detrimental affect on profits?

You don’t know, unless you approach it from the perspective of ‘problem-solution’.

Instead of getting straight to the solution, you can approach it from a different angle.

The main question you need to ask is “What problem am I trying to solve?”

In the issue raised by the customer wanting a 10% improvement in productivity, you may ask them:

  • “What is the problem that an increase in productivity would solve?”
  • “What is actually causing the lower-than-required productivity?”
  • “What results are you hoping for from the increased productivity?”
  • “What effects will the increase have on other areas of the business?”

You’ll see that these questions actually address the real problems the client is facing rather than just going along with the solutions they had originally proposed.

Now, it may well be that the increase in productivity is exactly what is required.

But the initial analysis might take us in a different direction in solving the situation.

As the emphasis is now put more firmly on what the actual problem is that needs to be solved, the conversation can be directed in assisting the client to choose the right solution for their business.

This now means the decision will be well-thought-out, rather than a more knee-jerk reaction based on insufficient evidence of the impact of increased productivity, or whatever the issue is.

Try this out the next time a client or prospect tells you what they think they need or want.

Highlight what problem they are actually trying to solve.

Then discuss whether their proposed solution, based on what they thought they needed or wanted, will actually achieve that solution.

Happy Selling!


Sean McPheat

Sean McPheat
Managing Director

MTD Sales Training | Image courtesy of Big Stock Photo

450 sales questions free report

Originally published: 26 October, 2018

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