Book Excerpt: Solve Billion Dollar Problems
- by Elay Cohen
- March 4, 2014
- Sales Process
We are fortunate here in California to be surrounded by so much innovation and general product awesomeness.
We’re all so excited to show off our wares that sometimes we forget to focus on what matters most – our customers’ problems. Executives today are looking to solve billion dollar problems. It’s up to us to uncover billion dollar issues and initiatives and demonstrate how we are uniquely positioned to solve them.
This reminds me of a time when I interviewed top sales executive at a sales kick off event at salesforce.com. He was being recognized as a top performer and there was a standing room ovation for this mega deal.
I asked him: “What did you sell the customer?” His answer: “I didn’t sell them any product. I solved their number one business problem.”
Rather than sell them a CRM call center solution to with a customer portal he went straight to the top and uncovered a billion dollar problem. He solved the problem of customer engagement which was the CxO’s top priority supported by many initiatives. With that insightful discovery in hand, this salesperson proceeded to work with all the stakeholders, continuing to do discovery but always asking the question: “How does what you told me impact your CxO’s top customer engagement issue?”
We all want to solve billion dollar problems for our customers.
There are many lessons from the story above but the main one is it all starts with discovery. Be curious. Take the time to ask questions, listen and learn. And when you’re done asking questions, ask more. Get to the root case. Uncover the why. Be sure to quantify the issue. As I work with many companies in Silicon Valley “uncovering the why” is a big theme and focus in startup land.
After you uncover the critical business issues and top initiatives, playback what you heard. Take the time in the meeting to recap what you learned. If you’re in a conference get up and white board what you heard. Hopefully, you’ve taken good notes.
An important step in solving big problems is to document what you heard and share it back with your customers, quickly. Sending a meeting notes summary with your customer challenges summarized and clear action items is important in driving urgency. You’ll also very quickly know if what you heard is the same thing as what they said. If your customers take the time to “red-line” what you wrote that means this is important to them.
Solving “billion dollar” problems is what every successful salesperson wants to accomplish. It’s what every SAAS company wants to repeatedly achieve. Scale and achievement increase when first line sales managers build a culture of learning and best practice sharing in their teams.
Learn more about this and many other sales best practices in my book SalesHood:
(The preceding is an excerpt from the “Be Curious” chapter.)
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