Our focus, naturally, is on what we sell. More accurately, it’s on what problems our products and solutions solve. For the moment, I’ll ignore that most sales people don’t do well at this most basic areas of working with customers.
One of the biggest challenges to our success in selling, is that we seldom solve the customer’s “whole problem.” It’s their problem they care about, not just the component we address.
The simplest example is if our customer is building a product–let’s imagine a new smartphone. We may provide all the internal electronics, but that’s only a small part of the product itself. There is the battery, the case, the “glass,” and numerous other things the cusotomer is concerned about in building the new product. They may have selected us for the internal electronics, but until they have addressed every area of the smartphone, finalizing the design and launching the product, while we may have won the decision, we don’t get the order until the customer has addressed all these other issues and has launched the product.
People who sell embedded parts/components are very familiar with this challenge.
We may even solve the majority of the customer problem. Let’s say a customer is looking for a new financial system. Our software or web delivered app may be the core of what the customer is looking for. But the customer’s whole problem goes far beyond selecting a sofware solution. There is implementation, conversion from the current system, training of end users, developing the interfaces to other systems, redesigning business processes and procedures, managing the change, and more.
Usually, we focus on our product and all it’s capabilities. We endlessly cite features, functions, feeds, speeds. The better among us talk about the problem–but only the part of the problem that we solve.
But for the customer, the problem they are trying to solve never stops with the selection of a product or service. It’s getting buy in from all the stake holders, it’s getting buy in from senior management, it’s actually solving the problem and achieving the outcome.
In reality, we will never solve the complete customer problem, we can’t and shouldn’t. The customer has to solve their problem!
But we help the customer more when we understand the problem the customer is trying to solve==and not just the part we solve. We create value where we can help the customer understand their problem and are addressing all aspects of it. Too often, the customer doesn’t understand their problem.
We’ve been involved in helping other customers solve their problems, knowing that we solve only part of it. While we can’t solve the whole problem, we create great value in helping our customers understand the whole problem.
Afterword: Hank Barnes wrote a great article on this concept: Understanding Your Customer’s Perspective, Think “Whole Context”