Solving Prospects’ Problems The Easy Way

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

Solutions road signThe salesperson of today is a problem-solver who works in conjunction with the prospect to identify any issues that his organisation has and then uses that information to present solutions to the prospect’s problems or situations. Before you make your sales presentation, the tricky part of this situation is ensuring that the problem that the prospect is attempting to solve is the actual problem that exists.

For example, when you first speak to a prospect, she might say that she needs a specific type of software. You could just make a presentation on the software and that would be the end of it. Or instead, you could ask the prospect questions in order to determine what the problem is that they are trying to solve. Then during your sales presentation, you will be able to:

  • Offer a better product or solution than the specific one the prospect asked for
  • Offer a broader solution that the prospect didn’t even know they needed or wanted
  • Offer additional products or services that enhance your sale and also exceed the prospect’s expectations
  • Identify additional needs that the prospect has which you can then offer to resolve with other products or services
  • Determine that you don’t actually have a product or service that will solve the prospect’s problem

The final point above may not seem like a solution you would want to offer. But the fact is that telling a prospect the truth will establish you as a reliable, trustworthy source of information for the next time they need something.

The first step in problem-solving is to ensure that the problem the prospect is trying to solve is the actual problem that needs solving.

One simple problem-solving tool is to use something called ‘The Five Whys.’ It is simple because it uses the question ‘why’ up to five times in order to help get to the root of a problem.

But remember that it is indeed a simple tool – if you are dealing with a more complex problem, you may need to learn other problem-solving skills. An example of how to use this tool is below. Notice that in this case, it’s not necessary to use five ‘why’ questions to get to the root of the problem.

Prospect: I might be interested in a copy of your ABC billing software.

You: OK, may I ask why you’re interested

Prospect: We are having problems keeping track of customer bills.

You: I see. When you say ‘having problems’, what might they be?

Prospect: We do it by hand, but now our customer base has grown so much that we can’t keep up. Correspondence in general is difficult.

You: I understand how your customer base has grown, so why does that make correspondence difficult?

Prospect: Because we have about 10 different pieces of information that have to go out to different customers in addition to the bills. Keeping all that in order is quite a challenge.

You: It sounds to me like you need more than a billing system – it sounds like a customer contact management system is what you really need. Why don’t I show you some of the benefits it could provide?

By digging deeper into the prospect’s business challenges, you actually find there are bigger problems that need to be sorted, and this is one way it can be achieved. Use this tool when appropriate and you’ll see it helps you solve prospects’ problems easier in the long run.

Happy selling!


Sean McPheat

Sean McPheat
Managing Director

MTD Sales Training | Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

450 sales questions free report

Originally published: 25 June, 2013

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