Blog Cover Image 1

Uncovering Unknown Problems

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 1/31/19 12:01 PM

How do you help people buy solutions to problems when they don't even realize that they actually have a problem?


It's one thing to be able to sell to someone when we know that they're coming to us with a particular problem, but as Daniel Pink wrote in his book, 'To Sell is Human', our job is really helping them uncover those problems that they don't know that they have.

So how do we do that? What are some of the questions that we can ask to help uncover those particular problems and the impact of those problems?

It actually reminded me of the very first startup that I worked with. And in this startup, Mark, who was the Chief Technical Officer, said something to me that really made an impact.

"Just because we can code it, doesn't mean we should."

The importance of spending time with those that will use the solution

He spent a lot of time in the field with the people that were using the particular solution, and in this case it was scientists who were trying to map the ocean floor. And with that, the way that they were doing that was basically on paper. It would take hours for them to stream through all of these charts with all of these huge amounts of data sets and figure out things like where should we lay a pipeline, or where can we drudge this particular thing? Or, how do we extract this ship that's on the ocean floor?

The hours that these scientists would spend poring over these documents made it difficult to do things quickly. And because he understood what their day to day was like, he was able to recognize the patterns and inefficiencies and problems that they didn't even know that they had.

And so when he designed the solution, it was when he would ask them questions like, well what if you could do it this way? How much time would that save and what would that mean to your overall process? And he was able to help them uncover problems that they didn't know they had and design a solution that they felt was specific to them.

Solving for the unknown

Asking the right questions to uncover the unknown

So as salespeople, what are some of the questions that we can ask that will help our buyers to uncover problems that they didn't even know they had and the consequences of those problems?

It really comes down to asking good discovery questions. And that can include things like,

  • What are your day to day tasks and requirements?
  • What are the outcomes that are going to make your role very successful?
  • What are the challenges that you face that prevent you from being able to do that quickly and efficiently?
  • How much time are you spending on those particular things?
  • What would you do with that time if you didn't have to do that?

And then you can go into the "what if" questions or even the "what about" questions. 

"What if" questions could be; "Well what if you could do it this way?" or " How would that impact the way that you're doing your job now?"

"What about" questions could include; "What about this particular thing that I see a lot of other people in your industry struggling with?" or "How are you going to handle that when it comes down the road?"

The bottom line of solving for the unknown

In other words, our job as salespeople is to help our buyers steer and navigate the unknown territories to avoid the pitfalls and the potholes. 

Watch recaps from the #LiveSalesLab

Topics: sales coaching, salespeople, #livesaleslab