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Making sales: solve problems for your customers

In order to draw out the challenges and problems a customer might have, you have to ask them the right questions. In order to make sales, we also have to ensure we target the most relevant potential customers with the right sales messages

Problem Maps® are a mechanism for achieving clarity in your whole sales process. As well as aiding us in the development of compelling sales messages; they assist in allowing us to understand the value we add and to whom our product or service is likely to be relevant. They also give us a mechanism to ask questions that will uncover the real issues that our potential customers have and which we can solve.

To produce a Problem Map® think of four different Headline Problems that you solve for your customers. Each issue has to be completely different and is written horizontally across a page. Then under each unique headline problem you write three resulting problems which are caused by the initial problem. In each vertical column, all four problems have to be different. However, horizontally there can be repetition of issues. Below is an example of a Problem Map® for an imaginary events planning company. They are putting on an event for companies who target the mobile phone industry and want to understand the buyer motivations of potential exhibitors.

Unique Headline Problem

We don't have the market penetration in the mobile phone sector that we would like.

It is costing me too much money to reach the mobile phone audience.

I don't have enough face time with my mobile phone sector customers.

The mobile phone sector is a major market for me. Can I afford not to be there?

Resulting Problem #1

We are not hitting our sales targets (customers).

My profit margin is being damaged

We are worried about losing customers to competitors.

We may lose customers to competitors.

Resulting Problem #2

We are losing ground to competitors.

There are opportunity costs to other areas of the business.

We may be missing out on opportunities to upsell etc.

Not being there could damage our reputation.

Resulting Problem #3

There is a loss of reputation (brand equity).

We are struggling to keep up with competitors.

There is potential damage in profitability.

We will miss out on opportunities and revenue.

 

You can see from the Problem Map® that there is the potential to have sixteen unique issues. However, allowing overlap of problems between different vertical columns is important as it can highlight some very pertinent issues that your potential customers may have. For example, the fear of missing out to competitors comes up consistently in this Problem Map®. So in this particular example we have ten unique issues.

Once you have undertaken a Problem Map® it gives you clarity in so many ways. You start to understand the real motivations for why people will purchase your product or service. In this scenario, it is clear that the concern about what the competition is doing will be paramount. Therefore, a key part of the sale will be to demonstrate to a potential exhibitor that their competitors will be at the exhibition. This, for example, could lead to a tactical decision to give one or two key stands away, as loss leaders, to short cut the time it takes to sell the other stands.

The Problem Map® also gives you clarity around the questions you should ask when meeting potential exhibitors. For example; questions around how a potential exhibitor currently reaches the mobile sector, how efficient that process is and how it affects profit margins, may be very pertinent in this particular case.

Finally, the Problem Map® can be used to understand the Sales Messages that should be featured on websites and in any supporting marketing materials, because it shows you what is really going to matter to your potential customers.

In the digital age, it is harder to get people's attention than it has ever been. Face to face time with a customer is increasingly precious. It is, therefore, vital that we make sure we engage with our prospects; by speaking their language immediately, by tapping-in directly to buyer motivation and by taking a solution-orientated approach. To enable this, Problem Maps® is a mechanism for ensuring that clarity of sales message and questioning is achieved, both in sales materials and in every sales meeting.

Problem Maps are a registered trade mark of Leboff Enterprises.

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