This post is based on a podcast with Keenan. If you’d like to listen to more #FlipMyFunnel Podcast episodes, you can check them out here and listen to this episode below!
Why do we buy a car? Because we have a transportation problem. Why do we take medicine? Because we have a pain problem. Why do we buy software? Because we have a technical problem.
But far too often when we pitch a client, we lead with the product, not the problem, … and that’s what we tackled on this episode of the #FlipMyFunnel podcast.
Keenan joined us for an action-packed 20-minute episode all about his sales methodology called Gap Selling. He literally wrote the book on it, and it’s still a best-seller on Amazon, 3 months running.
Here’s what we’re unpacking today:
- Explaining Gap Selling
- Discussing the 3 elements of change
- Leading with problem, not with product
- Reaching out to first-time clients
What is Gap Selling and what should people know about it?
Keenan: Gap Selling is all about problem-centric selling. Most people sell in a product-centered manner. 90% of all sales people are product-centered. And what that means is they lead with the product and lead with the features and lead with the functions. In any case, regardless of what they’re leading with, they’re still trying to figure out how to push their product. Gap Selling is about moving to a problem-centric selling environment, where your whole selling process revolves around identifying, uncovering, evaluating, assessing, and measuring the size of the problem, before you even start talking about your product. Because the truth of the matter is: A product is really a solution. Well, a solution to what? Every single buyer has an utterly unique, one-of-a-kind problem set. And if you don’t understand the unique problem set, you can’t sell to it. Gap Selling breaks that down.
Does this Gap Selling method change from a startup, to a mid-size, to an enterprise company?
Keenan: It never changes, and it is 100% common. Here’s why: When we think about what we do as sales people, our job is to be change agents. When we engage somebody to buy something, what it’s really about is change, right? So, if I go to buy a scarf, a sweater, or a pack of gum, really what I am doing is this: I’ve come to some conclusion that my current state, where I am right now without the scarf, without the shirt, without gum, isn’t adequate, and I have some desired future state I am looking to attain. So thinking about it is not very difficult, but when you are talking about B2B sales, it does become more complex. The only way to facilitate that change is to create, or understand, the elements of change, starting with the current state, (where is the person today, what is going on, etc.) I break down the current state into these 5 elements:
- What is the physical and literal environment?
- What is the problem that physical and literal environment is creating?
- What is the impact of that problem existing? (The impact to the business, the impact to the person)
- What is the emotional effect? (How does it make them feel?)
- Finally, what is the root cause of the problem?
So once you have that, then you have to go to the future state and do the same thing again: What is the desired future state? What is the desire in the physical and literal environment? What is the desired result in solving the problem (the desired outcome)? What is the impact to the organization if you achieve that desired outcome? How does it make you feel emotionally? Finally: What is the potential solution? (i.e the opposite of the root cause?)
Once you get those 2 things — the current state and the future state — the space in between is called the Gap. That is what people buy; they’re not buying your product.
How do you use this problem-centric approach when you are reaching out to a new account?
Keenan: You lead with the problem. You don’t lead with the product. I want people to flip it. In the book, and on my site, I have something called a PIC. It is a problem identification chart, and it has 3 columns. The first column is this list of the problems your product or service solves. So, before you even write anything down, you have to know your customer, you have to know your buyer persona, and you have to know your ICP. Then, go to the next layer and say, “OK. What problems does our product or service solve?” That’s the first column. In the second column, is the impact to the organization if that problem exists, and there is a bunch of them. (That’s what people miss all the time: They don’t put all the impacts that could happen.) Then on the final column, write in the root cause. Fill that out for at least four, five, six, seven, problems. Not 10, 15, 20 — no one has that many big problems you solve. Then, give it to all the salespeople, and give it to marketing. When you make your sales calls, when you build your emails, you’re asking the buyer to affirm, or say. “Yeah, I have that problem.” And the minute they say “I have that problem,” you now open up a discussion to talk about it.
Sangram: Here’s my summary of our discussion:
So, one: Shift your mindset from product-centric to problem-centric. I am the biggest fan of this because I have seen it work, in real time, for our company, Terminus.
The second one is: As a salesperson, your job is to be a change agent. I don’t know how many people in sales think about themselves as a change agent in their job — that their duty is to change perception, to educate. And not just on the product, but on the problem and the impact it can have, and what the root cause is. Plus, a change agent causes you to come from a place of empathy and understanding.
Keenan: Go through your entire pipeline, and pull out every opportunity. Be honest: Maybe get a peer, maybe get your manager, and ask yourself, very specifically: What problem or problems do these prospects have that I am trying to solve?
PS: Don’t say: “The problem is not enough revenue and they aren’t growing fast enough.” It has to be more specific, something more like, “They need to be growing 25%, but they’re only growing 8%.”