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How To Help Your Prospect See The Problem

Jan 19, 2008
Everyone has their own little idiosyncrasies, like counting steps or washing their hands or trying to memorize pi to the 10,000th decimal point. At least I think they do, don't they? And, even though I've never admitted this before, I too have my own idiosyncrasies.

From the time I was a little boy I would subconsciously ask myself this question when I was with someone. "Do I like this person more or less now than I did a minute ago?" It was not until I was an adult that I realized that everyone asks themself the same question. Maybe not as frequently, and maybe not out loud, but they ask just the same. That leads me to last Saturday.

Last Saturday afternoon my wife and I invited a couple over for lunch and a swim. Now it's important to keep in mind that this is my house and my swimming pool, and I'm proud of it. Just like you're proud of your property.

As soon as they arrived my guest jumped into the swimming pool and popped out of the water rubbing his eyes. "This chlorine water is horrible" he said. "It burns my eyes. I have a saltwater swimming pool and this is never a problem with my pool."

Sixty seconds had passed and I concluded without hesitation that I liked him less. But what did he do that caused me to feel this way?

He insulted me by implying that I was either stupid for having a chlorine swimming pool or that I was incompetent for not taking care of it properly. (As a side note, my pool is perfectly maintained.) I don't think he intended to imply that I was stupid or incompetent, but he did. He then went on to tell me why I should get a salt pool just like his. And guess what? I thought even less of him then I did 60 seconds earlier.

Here's one of the many rules of likability that sales people seem to misunderstand. When you make a negative comment about any aspect of a persons finances, business, car, property, clothes etc., (what ever it is you're trying to sell them) you're causing that person to think less of you. Period.

You might be under the impression that your job in the selling process is to point out the prospect's problem so that you can persuade them to buy your product or service. It's not, at least not in the way described above.

So here's the question that must be answered. How can you help your prospect see their problem without overtly pointing it out to them? The way to do it is through asking appropriate questions. Let me explain.

Let's assume that my friend wanted to sell me on converting my chlorine swimming pool to a saltwater system. Here's what he could have done differently. He could have started the conversation by complimenting me on my swimming pool.

"What a beautiful swimming pool Bob. Did you design it yourself?"

Everyone loves a compliment. And his compliment implied that I'm both smart and talented. I like him more.

At this point he could have asked me about my chlorine system.

"It see you have a chlorine system on your pool. How do you like it?"

Great question. He's obviously interested and he's asking for my opinion. I like people who ask for my opinion. I like him even more.

At this point he could easily bring up the saltwater system without offending me.

"I love your pool Bob and you've done a wonderful job maintaining it. You really know how to keep the water crystal clear.

"Our condo complex recently converted from a chlorine system to a saltwater system and it's really different. I understand from the guy who takes care of the pool that it's easier to maintain and cheaper to operate. Have you ever been in a saltwater pool are seen how they work?"

Now I'm interested. I'm interested in learning how a salt system is different, how it's easier to maintain and how it is less expensive to operate. And best of all, I'm not offended. I like him even more now.

If you have a choice of telling your prospect that they have a problem and helping them see the problem for themselves, it's always best to help them see the problem for themselves. If you allow that to happen, they will like you more ... if you don't, they will like you less. And remember, there's a direct correlation between how much your prospect likes you and how willing they are to buy from you.

Here are three things to keep in mind when you're trying to get your prospect to see the problem.

1. You don't have to be the one to point out the problem. Let your prospect discover the problem on their own (with your help of course) and be there to help them with the solution.

2. Be diplomatic. What you think is a problem could be the same thing your customer perceives as their finest piece of work.

3. Some things are best left unsaid. I did not need to know that the chlorine in my swimming pool caused my guests eyes to water. It probably wasn't true and if it was, he didn't need to bring it to my attention.

In ancient Persia the messengers who brought bad news were executed on the spot while the messengers who brought good news were rewarded handsomely. Things are not that different today.
About the Author
Bob Sommers is the host of the Recognized Expert Marketing show on Maui. Listen to Bob and other marketing experts talk about the importance of selling , being a guest on radio and TV , marketing and more.
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