Sell Solutions Before a Problem Arises

A sales force will remain as long as a company has goods and services to sell.

The basics of selling are straightforward: a client expresses a want for something, and someone else offers them a product or service that fulfills that need. In essence, sales is the process through which a company turns a "want" into a "need." These principles are ageless, yet they are based on a reactive process.

When a company is exclusively focused on sales in a reactive manner, it may be very restrictive. Instead than waiting for a client to have a need, when a slew of rivals are ready to fill it with their own goods or services, you may actually assist a customer in discovering a need they didn't realize they had.

Use a pre-mortem to pre-solve a problem

In most cases, the customer believes they already know all of the solutions to their problem and only inquires about something with which they are already familiar, and all too often, a business or organization delivers exactly what the customer wants, rather than solving a problem the customer is unaware of.

The Hard Trend Methodology is a skill that I teach in my Anticipatory Leader System. A company leader may utilize the Hard Trend Methodology to discover Hard Trends, which are future certainties, and use those Hard Trends to pre-solve an issue before it becomes a problem.

Pre-solving an issue, or finding a problem that a client will always have and a solution they don't know they need, is the key in this instance. A biker that ultimately needs new tires is a basic illustration of a Hard Trend.

Bicyclists will need fresh tires as long as bicycles have tires. So, rather than just giving a client a new inner tube after their tire blows, how can a bicycle manufacturer pre-solve the issue of a blown inner tube in a bicycle tire?

The ideal approach to put this technique into practice is to perform a pre-mortem, which entails asking the consumer questions and peeling back the layers of their need to uncover why they may need a product or service. You will discover that there is much more information accessible than you originally thought.

A pre-mortem inquiry for our cyclist example could be: what is the most unpleasant aspect of a flat tire? Most people will tell you that a flat tire doesn't happen while you're sitting stationary on your bike; it happens when you're moving.

As a result, pre-solving the issue does not always mean selling them new tires, but rather a better solution for if and when they have a flat tire.

A pre-mortem is much more consultative than an agile, reactive post-mortem, which involves waiting to discover what a client need.

Is it true that they have a problem?

Another aspect of utilizing a pre-mortem to identify what a client need is determining whether the problem they are experiencing is the true issue that needs to be addressed.

Continuing with our biker example, the main issue in their situation is probably not the flat tire and the need to purchase a new one; it's the annoyance of being stuck on their trip, particularly if they don't have anybody to contact for a ride home. Many bicycle manufacturers and even tiny cycling stores have never examined this layer of the sales onion.

Now, Anticipatory Leaders may use my Hard Trend Methodology to identify Soft Trends, or future possibilities that are accessible to influence. The method you address this new issue is a variable, and using digital technology in an exponential manner will let you pre-solve their problem as well.

Perhaps as a bicycle manufacturer, you can develop an app similar to Uber, but for bikers who need roadside help.

Instead of just selling consumers new tires, which they can get from any bicycle store, you develop a new product that addresses an issue they didn't realize they needed addressed by determining what their real problem is.

Anticipation opens you a world of sales possibilities

Anticipatory Leaders and Anticipatory Organizations, particularly in their sales divisions, practice all of the aforementioned skills exclusively. It's antiquated to limit your sales of whatever product or service your company provides to a reactive mentality, where you wait until a client has an issue before scrambling to solve it.

A responsive and agile sales staff would be like a biker calling your manufacturing company with a flat tire while sitting on the side of a remote road, and you basically responding with "that's unfortunate, we'll make sure to bring you a tire as soon as we can." Sure, it fixes an issue, but not before your valued client becomes stressed and, due to the instantaneity of our digitally linked world, contacts your rival to see what they can do.

You'll constantly be at the starting line if all you do is put out fires for your clients. Anticipation offers you a leg up on your rivals and eliminates the need for you to compare your sales figures to theirs.

Remember that sales aren't usually between businesses. A company executive "sells" his or her fresh business model concept to his or her peers.

The more you can utilize anticipation to pre-solve issues before they arise in any sales situation, the better the result for everyone involved.

Thanks to Daniel Burrus at Business 2 Community whose reporting provided the original basis for this story.

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