Problem-Centric Selling vs Product-Centric Selling: It’s Time We Change the Way We Sell

For years, I mean for most of modern day sales, we have been taught how to sell and pitch our products. The product has been at the center of all that is sales, and unfortunately, it’s a problem, and we need to stop. 

It’s not that we haven’t attempted to move away from product-centric selling, leveraging terms like; Trusted Advisor, or Consultative Sales, or Solutions Selling, but the reality has been these approaches have been little more than window dressing, in spite of some of their promise.  

Unfortunately today, we’re still using terms like the elevator pitch, and features and benefits. We’re still doing demos where we spend the majority of the time showing buyers all the cool, nifty features our products have. We request time with buyers to talk about our product and what we think it can do for buyers. We fill sales decks with useless company information about our number of years on the Inc 5,000 list or the year we were founded, how many employees we have and other self-absorbed, company-centric information.  In spite of best efforts, too many sales organizations are still product-centric, turning out product-centric salespeople.  

It’s time we flip the script for real. It’s time we truly dedicate ourselves to problem-centric selling.  Problem-centric selling starts with the customers problem, not their product. Problem-centric selling understands that if there is no problem, there is no sale.  It operates from the premise that people buy things to change, and they change because they can’t currently do something they want to do and/or are unable to achieve some ideal future state or outcome.  Problem-centric selling starts with salespeople engaging with buyers to understand their buyers current business and technical environment in order to assess if there is a problem they can solve and how big the impact is on the organization if the problem isn’t solved. Problem-centric selling starts with questioning if they (the seller) can even help the buyer. It starts with truly understanding what is happening in their buyer’s world, why the current state is unacceptable, and the outcomes they want to achieve. Problem-centric selling starts with salespeople qualifying the problem, not qualifying the buyer. Problem-centric selling asks; is the problem big enough? Can I solve the problem? Can I solve the problem well and what happens when I solve it? 

Problem-centric selling isn’t about pushing products or selling stuff. It’s not about espousing “value propositions” and elevator pitches. That’s product-centric selling. Problem-centric selling is putting the buyer’s problem(s) center stage and asking a few very simple questions. Does this buyer have a real problem? Can I solve the problem and if so, what impact will it have on the organization if I do?  Once those questions are answered, then and only then do you start to discuss your product in terms of how it could deliver on the desired outcomes. 

It’s time to move the product out from the center of the selling process and replace it with the problem. Products are useless if there is no problem to solve. People don’t buy products, they buy outcomes.  

It’s time we change the way we sell.  

Keenan