The 3 Selling Environments – Part 1

There are only 3 selling environments in sales.   That’s it.  All sales, regardless of product or complexity, will fall into one of these three environments.  Knowing which environment your selling in is critical.

The selling environments are:

  1. The prospect knows they have a problem and knows what they need to solve it.
  2. The prospect knows they have a problem but doesn’t know how to solve it.
  3. The prospect doesn’t know they have a problem and therefore they don’t know anything needs to be solved

Each one of these environments requires a different sales approach.

This will be a 3 part series. I’ll address each environment separately.   This post will address  number 1.

Selling in an environment where the customer knows they have a problem and knows how to solve it seems like a good place to be right?  The prospect doesn’t have to be convinced they have a problem.  They know what they are looking for in a solution, so the sale should move quickly.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t work this way.  A quick sale might be the case if what you are selling fits perfectly with the prospects ideas for the solution, but this rarely happens.  If your product or solution doen’t fit perfectly with the prospects vision it’s a long tough road.  I think this is the toughest sales environment, because the prospect or client is least open to being sold.

Prospects who know they have a problem and know what the solution is are very difficult to sell to.  They are resistant to new ideas.  The already know what they want. They can be defensive, close minded, and inflexible.  They don’t want to be perceived as wrong or incompetent. Getting the attention of prospects who know they have a problem and know what they need takes finess.   Showing up and throwing up won’t work.   They don’t have the patience to be told what they already know.   To get their attention you have to probe.  With prospects who know what they want, don’t tell, ask.   Ask the prospect what the problem is.  How did it surface?  Ask how it became a problem. Ask them to share the solution they’ve chosen.  Ask why they’ve chosen that solution.  Ask what alternatives they looked at and why they decided not to go that route.  The key to selling in an environment where the prospect knows what he wants is in the questions and the dialog.   You have to start with THEIR vision first.   It is critical to create dialog and to build an environment where the prospect trusts you and will be open.  You can NOT sell to a prospect who knows what they want without the their trust.   Start with your product, your ideas, your solutions and you will be relegated to pricing and terms dictated by the prospect or worse just dismissed.

Getting close to the prospect and getting them to open up is critical because selling in this environment requires the prospect be willing to re-evaluate their position.  Prospects won’t question themselves or re-evaluate their position without feeling safe.   Telling does nothing to build trust or make people feel safe.  Getting people to change their mind, to consider different alternatives is hard.  It’s even harder in sales.

The other key element to selling in this environment is information and expertise.  Once the questions have been asked it’s critical a credible, alternative solution can be offered.  The alternative solution must fit perfectly to the business needs, motivations, challenges and problems the prospect is facing.   Most importantly it MUST be a perceived as a better solution.  The only way a prospect who knows what their problem is and knows how to solve it is going to buy something else is if it’s a better solution.

Finally, to get a prospect to move off of their original idea, they have to feel it was their idea or their decision.   In an environment where the prospect knows the problem and solution it’s not uncommon for them to have already told the organization what they are going to do.  Changing products, vendors, or solutions can make the prospect look wishy-washy or worse incompetent.  As the sales person selling in this environment you need to give the prospect a way to look like the hero for changing their mind NOT the goat.  It has to be their idea and it has to be a better idea.

Getting prospects to see something other than their idea is hard.  To be successful with a prospect who knows they have a problem, and knows what the solution is takes patience, tact, trust, and lots of quality information.   The client has to feel comfortable talking about what the problem is and their vision of the solution. They have to allow for the possibility that there may be alternative solutions and they have to feel any changes from the original solution were their idea.  If you’re selling to a prospect who knows they have a problem and knows what they want this is your challenge.

How do you sell to people in this environment?

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Keenan