Agents and advisors: Salespeople or problem solvers?

The Lead

Customers in any value-oriented sale are much more focused on solving their problems than acquiring your solutions. (Photo: iStock) Customers in any value-oriented sale are much more focused on solving their problems than acquiring your solutions. (Photo: iStock)

Insurance and finance sales teams tend to invest a tremendous amount of thought and energy in trying to figure out how best to position their solutions within their respective markets.

That makes sense. After all, the more solutions that agents and advisors can provide, the more money you and your company stand to make, right?

Related: Americans want solutions that can increase income in retirement

What if it's actually the other way around?

Providing valuable solutions is certainly a noble goal for individual salespeople, and for the entire sales organization. But step back and think about it: Customers in any value-oriented sale are much more focused on solving their problems than acquiring your solutions.

How do we know this to be true?

Think about the last time you made a major purchase like a car, computer, cell phone or even a home. As you were in the final stages of your buyer’s journey, what was more important to you? Getting ‘pitched’ by an eager sales representative, or addressing your wants and needs as efficiently and effectively as possible?

Not surprisingly, the answer to this question is the same for every business, in every industry, and in every culture. Customers are much more interested in addressing their needs than being “sold” on your solutions.

This is where a seemingly small difference in semantics translates into a significant increase in sales effectiveness and productivity. As it turns out, solving a customer’s problem — and providing a solution — are basically the same thing. You can’t solve a problem without providing a solution, nor can you provide a solution without solving a problem.

Related: 6 problems solved by life insurance

Still, there is a huge difference between being a “problem solver” and a “solution provider.” The difference is perception. Customers these days are much more focused on addressing their goals, objectives, wants, needs and desires, than they are willing to be on the receiving end of a sales pitch. So adopting a ‘problem solver’ mindset can give sellers a significant advantage over the traditional ‘solution provider’ mentality in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace.

While everyone knows that success in selling is about building mutually beneficial business relationships, sellers who focus on solving their customers’ problems can expect to sell substantially more solutions. That’s because the mutual bonds being formed with potential buyers are the result of focusing on the problems they are trying to solve, rather than fixating on whatever solutions you might be wanting to sell.

Editor's Note: The original version of this column first published in the author's own blog.

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