Most sales training programs that teach salespeople how to sell specific products or services do not mention business problems. This is an unfortunate oversight, as qualifying and quantifying business problems is the secret to closing more sales!
What is a Business Problem?
A business problem is any activity or outcome that negatively impacts a business. Examples of negative impacts include reductions in revenue, profits, customer satisfaction, employee productivity, job satisfaction, etc.
Here is an example of a business problem description:
"Many mission-critical software applications (e-business, manufacturing, point-of-sale, etc. ) need to access relational databases in order to function. If a database has problems (goes down or suffers data loss or corruption), application downtime can cost companies tens of thousands of dollars per minute in lost sales, lost customers, and lost opportunities. "
In the above example, the business problem is a database that is not functioning properly.
What is the relationship between Business Problems and the Features and Benefits of a product or service?
Features are what actually solve business problems. Benefits are what customers enjoy when the business problem has been solved.
The only features prospects actually care about are the ones that will solve their own specific business problems. If we randomly spew long lists of features and benefits at prospects, in effect we are hoping they are already aware of their business problems, and they will somehow figure out which of our (product or service) features will solve their business problems. This is a very inefficient way to sell. Plus, we run the risk that our prospects will NOT figure out which features will solve their business problems. Or, they may become bored and “switch off" before we mention features that may actually be of interest to them!
If you are going to talk about features and benefits, discuss only those features that will solve your prospect's specific business problems! Of course, you need to identify your prospect's business problems if you want to have this kind of highly targeted discussion.
If your employer's product or service training programs do not specifically address business problems, you will need to do some digging to uncover them. Ask the question, “What problems does this product or service solve?" Another way to ask this question is, “What would motivate a prospect to make the investment required to buy this product/service?" Then, once you have made a list of the most important business problems, ask, “What questions can I ask that will help me figure out whether a prospect has any of these business problems?"
When you become an expert in business problems and related qualifying questions, your education will not be complete. You also need to learn the questions you can ask to quantify the impact of each business problem.
What is a Quantified Impact?
Quantified impacts are dollar values or percentages with associated time frames that can be assigned to specific business problems. In the earlier business problem description, the quantified impact was “tens of thousands of dollars per minute".
Quantified impacts are an invaluable aid to closing sales. How? If the quantified impact of a business problem exceeds the investment required to fix the problem, a buying decision is easy to justify. The larger the difference between the quantified impact and the required investment, the easier it becomes to close the sale. If the quantified impact is a multiple of the required investment (for example, a quantified impact of millions of dollars versus a required investment of thousands of dollars), the buying decision becomes “a no-brainer".
IMPORTANT NOTE: In order for a quantified impact to add value to the sales process, your prospect must be the source of the numbers. Why? In general, prospects don't trust salespeople. Many have dealt with salespeople who were more interested in making sales than they were in providing value. Plus, prospects recognize that salespeople have a vested interest in creating a compelling business case that can be used to support a buying decision. This causes prospects to discount any quantified impact information that salespeople provide. However, if the prospect is the source of the quantified impact information, they perceive it as unquestioned truth. This makes learning how to ask quantifying questions a valuable skill indeed!
If you want to close more sales, invest some time and effort in identifying the business problems that can be solved by your products and services. If you become an expert in business problems and the questions you can ask to 1) determine whether a prospect has specific business problems, and 2) quantify the impact of those business problems, you will close more sales faster and with less effort.
Copyright 2005 - Alan Rigg
Sales performance expert Alan Rigg is the author of How to Beat the 80/20 Rule in Selling: Why Most Salespeople Don't Perform and What to Do About It. His company, 80/20 Sales Performance, helps business owners, executives, and managers DOUBLE sales by implementing The Right Formula™ for building top-performing sales teams. For more information and more FREE sales and sales management tips, visit http://www.8020salesperformance.com .