Many people in sales know this but it’s like an itch you can’t help scratching. Often you know you’re doing it, but you just can’t help yourself! Diving straight into solution mode is the biggest thing getting in the way of your sales effectiveness.

What’s the risk of diving into solution mode, instead of discovery?

The outcome is that you seldom uncover ‘active need’ and find yourself responding to information (no need) or passive need. This means you offer a solution to something which wasn’t really a problem, hence no sale!

How can we shift our approach to improve sales effectiveness?

Part of this issue stems from a lack of consultative sales training and coaching which helps to train sales people to question, listen, uncover and understand. It also stems from the imbalance between technical product training versus soft skills training.

As a result, sales people are comfortable in talking product/solution because their head is filled full of it, and less comfortable in listening, delving and understanding.

Passive versus active need

The iceberg image represents the size and importance of people’s needs. We use this metaphor because you can see 10% of the iceberg (above the water) but there is 90% (below the water) that requires you to dive deeper.

No need/information only

You may hear it as a need, but if the person does not state it as a challenge or an outcome, then it is just information.

For example, if someone says:

“Our data takes two days to back up!”

We might hear this as a need, but at this stage it is just information!

What happens if we respond with a solution when you have uncovered ‘no need’?

We call it: “Turn up and throw up.”

Bottom line here is, you are just presenting ideas and benefits in the hope they will be of interest. This is unprofessional, and unlikely to be effective.

Passive need

These are either challenges or outcomes without urgency.

Trigger phrases can be things like: “we’re considering; we’re interested in.”

We may assume that they see the need as being urgent enough to want to do something about it, but the words they use reflect that they don’t see this as top priority!

What happens if you respond with a solution when you have uncovered ‘passive need’?

We call these people “optimists.”

A customer mentions they have an issue with something and the optimist jumps into solution mode: “Let me tell you how our solution addresses your need.”

It is not the behaviour of a ‘trusted advisor.’

Active need

Active needs are either challenges or outcomes with urgency, indicating strong wants or desires,

Words to listen for are: “I want, I need to, I must.”

You may need to dive deeper (i.e. the iceberg).

What happens if you respond with a solution ONLY once you have uncovered ‘active need’?

You will be seen more as a trusted advisor, and this is the behaviour of an elite consultant!

In summary

True consulting requires attitude and actions that uncover and understand ‘active needs’ before providing advice.

Providing solutions to active needs helps to achieve trusted advisor status and will speed up decision making time, time to sale and success rate.