Most sales training programs that teach salespeople how to sell specific products or services focus heavily on features and benefits, but often do not mention business problems. This is an unfortunate oversight, as qualifying and quantifying business problems is the secret to closing more sales!
A business problem is any activity or outcome that negatively impacts a business. Examples of negative impacts include reductions in:
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. Potential impacts of the business problem are lost sales, lost customers, and lost opportunities.
Features are what actually solve business problems. Benefits are what customers enjoy as a result of a business problem has being solved.
The only product or service features that 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 would like to have this kind of highly targeted conversation.
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, please note that your education will not be complete. You also need to learn the questions you can ask to quantify the impact of each business problem.
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 prospects 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.
On the other hand, 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 any of the business problems your products and services can solve, and (2) quantify the impact of identified business problems, you will close more sales faster and with less effort!