Like most sales professionals, you are highly knowledgeable of the capabilities of the products and services you represent. However, being a “solution expert” alone is not enough; ultimately you may end up trying to push products and services without really knowing whether or not your prospects actually have a need for them. When that happens, we run the risk of giving the prospect a reason NOT to buy from us and dismiss our offering too quickly.

The difference between being perceived as simply a solution provider vs. a trusted business consultant lies in how you manage the conversation about those capabilities. This is the skill side of sales and relationship-building, and the real crux of your ability to succeed. By asking, “Who cares?” or “So what?” about every feature of every product and service you represent, you begin to understand why your prospects might care about how your products and services can affect their business. Effective sales begin with an understanding of your prospective customer, by discussing what problems they perceive as needing to solve. Once a prospect agrees that any such problem exists, it’s an invitation to ask about their view of potential solutions — and to create a need for yours.

The bottom line: How can we expect our prospects and customers to agree on our solutions if we haven’t taken the time to gain agreement on their problems?

The most successful sales people are the most curious. They are truly interested in learning about the companies and individuals with whom they work. They realize what many of us struggle to understand: We often demonstrate more value to our customers through the questions we ask than the answers we give. They are able to influence the conversation and demonstrate their credibility and knowledge by asking good questions.

The better you are at understanding what business issues and problems your prospects are experiencing, the better you become at uncovering needs that your products and services can address, and the better you’ll be at integrating your solution(s) into the context of your prospects’ businesses.

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As Founder and CEO of Visualize, Scott spearheads the company’s overall strategic direction, planning and execution. Scott has over 25 years of experience in sales and sales leadership, building profitable companies.