It's Not Sales; It's Problem Solving: A Framework for Getting Your First Client

It's Not Sales; It's Problem Solving: A Framework for Getting Your First Client

Welcome back to the Corporate Escapee Podcast. I'm your host, Brett Trainor. One of the biggest blockers for folks considering leaving corporate and going solo is the lack of confidence in their ability to sell. When I meet potential escapees, I hear all the time, I'm not good at selling or I don't know how to sell.

I have a little secret. You don't have to be good at selling to be successful outside of c. In this solo app, so I'll share my approach to sales that has been highly effective. I joke all the time that sales is finally caught up to me. I'm gonna cover three key topics. One, what makes a successful rep? I think it's important to understand what are the key attributes of successful sales.

It'll help you. Two, a simple framework you can use to help guide your sales efforts. And three, and last but not least, but probably the most important is how to have an effective discovery meeting. Most struggle with this and it makes it harder to sell. So, and if you don't know what a discovery meeting, stay tuned because you're gonna wanna know.

But anyway, before we get there. Let's chat about what makes someone effective at selling. I was never good at the overly aggressive used car Approach to sales didn't work for me. It made me uncomfortable. Didn't like to do it, so I really didn't do it. The good news for you and folks that don't like that type of selling is it doesn't work on today's buyers, right?

They don't want to be pressured. They don't want to. When you want them to buy, it just doesn't work. Occasionally it will, you'll get lucky, but for the most part, it's not an effective sales strategy. What buyers do want is to work with problem solvers and subject matter experts. When I was running sales ops at a high growth startup, I analyzed what the key attributes were of our top sellers, and I didn't just look at one, one sales team.

I looked at strategic account. Kind of a different type of sale, uh, outside sales, which are regional sales in some organizations inside sales, you know, a hundred percent on the phones. And even our SDRs in BDRs who are most of the time Appointment Sutters. And what I found was, or what I was looking for is what were some of the key attributes of the folks that were on the top of the leaderboards for each of those teams, and the number one, Key was their prospects believed they could personally solve their problem, right?

They viewed them as a subject matter expert. Um, to use the, the phrase, the trusted advisor. They all believed that they weren't selling to them, but they were actually there at helping them solve that problem. So why is this important? Because I think if you reframe sales into a more of a problem solving mode, it'll help you.

One, get over the, the uncomfortable of selling, right? You're a problem solver. And at the end of the day, to solve this problem for prospects, it has a, has a price, right? So you're not selling, you're selling value. Um, and if they want to problem solve, you're a person that can do it. But guess what, if you're not, then somebody else is going to do it for them.

So, so I think just having that reframe, that mentally approach it differently, make it. And then two, uh, second is, you know, kind of a, a framework that I use to help you think about, um, your sales efforts. And start of this is as some of the pre-work, you know, that, that you can do. But start again, the theme.

What is the problem that you solve? How do you solve it? Three. How do you solve it differently? This is kind of important, right? So what makes you stand out? And it can't be price. Um, you never want to compete on price, but think about how you approach the, the product a little bit differently. Maybe you've got 15 years of experience in a specific industry.

What, whatever it is. Think about what your difference is. Uh, the next is what benefit or impact of solving the problem, right? So what is, what does it look like for the prospect after this problem is solved? Right? Is it more free time? Whatever it is. So you want to talk about and be understand that the value of the benefit you're gonna provide.

And last is, you know, where have you done this before? What are your proof points? And again, I get some pushback on this, that, hey, I, I don't have any clients yet, so I don't have any proof points, but if you've been in corporate, you've been solving these problems for 10, 20, 30 years, it's sometimes you have proof points.

You have done this before. So just share your experience, where you've done it and, and why you're doing it now. Right? I think this story and building those human connections is, is so important. So, so those are the first two. Reframe it. Think of it. Approach it from a problem solving standpoint. Two, follow this, this framework to help you set up what your, your offering looks like and approach to the client.

And third, and like I said, this could be a superpower. Cause if you'd get really good and effective at discovery meetings, it's gonna make your selling that much easier. So we're gonna get into is, um, kind of an outline of a session that I use with my clients where we go much deeper, we do a little bit of role playing, et cetera.

But just to give you an idea, as you're approaching these meetings, some ideas on how to make a more effective starting, you know, today, tomorrow, uh, the first, I, I really break this into two, two pieces. You, if you guys have been listening for me a while, you know, I love this simple analogies or simple examples cuz we tend to really overcomplicate things.

So the two keys to effective discovery are one. Asking great questions, right? Not much of a surprise, but the better the questions you ask, the more you get the prospect talking, the better and more you're going to learn. And two is effective listening. You may be thinking, well, I'm already a good listener, but the fact is most of us are not very good listeners and.

If we can just open that up a little bit, you're going to be that much more effective. So, so just a, a little bit more in depth. So what is discovery? You know, uh, one of my favorite quotes is The art of persuasion is a paradox. The more we attempt to persuade people, the more they tend to resist us. But the more we attempt to understand and create value for them, the more they tend to persuade themselves.

And at the end of the day, that's what we want, right? We're not going into these discovery. Pitching our features and benefits and saying what we do, you need to make this all about the prospect and asking questions to better understand one their business, two, what their current situation is, et cetera.

So the key is really to ask the questions and get the prospect talking. So, you know, when we talk about discovery, You know, interesting when you, when you hear where it was originated from, it's gonna make sense. But discovery really comes from the legal profession, right? When you think about trial lawyers, they spend a great deal of time in discovery, learning about witnesses, facts, all that stuff before they ever get to a trial.

And I think if you approach this the same way with sales, you're gonna be much more impactful. Right? Um, I think the stat was 50 to 75. Of the best trial attorney's times are in discovery and not in the courtroom. So the more prepared you are, the better the discovery, you know, the better the outcome is going to be.

And again, I think that the analogy or why is this as important to you is it makes sense. The more time in discovery, the more it'll differentiate you from your competitors. Cause they guarantee you, uh, your potential prospect had somebody come in and just pitching them the features and benefits and why they're better without actually getting to know them.

And their problem. So, so keep that in mind as you're going through the process. We really want to get the, the customer, the prospect talking. So what are the keys to great discovery questions? One, make sure they're open-ended, right? You don't want the, the process to answer with a. Yes, sir or no? Right? Do you have this problem?

Yes. Right. That's not gonna give you much insight into what their, what their true problem is, and you may uncover their, the symptoms or it could be an actual problem, right? Uh, I think you wanna make it a two-sided question. You learn by asking, and then the customer learns by answering. Right? It's a, it'll be a win-win if the cliche goes.

And just a couple examples, right? If you follow the acronym. You know, to think about how you start, obviously you'd wanna have some of these questions mapped out before you go in, and if you're into the same vertical, you're gonna get a pretty good idea of what are gonna be the most important questions.

But couple of ideas for you is remember the acronym ted, which I just mentioned. Tell me about, right. Tell me about the, the time that this happened. Tell me about the problem that you're having or e explain for me, right. What this business looks like, what your challenges are, or describe for me.

At the end of the day, what we really want to do is get that customer open up and talking about their, I said their challenges, their businesses, what the outcome that they're looking for is gonna make it that much easier for you. To write, prescribe a, a solution or an outcome if you, the more you know about the problem and you know, the more you know about why, where they're trying to get to.

So with a couple of those asking good questions, again, open-ended, make sure the customer's talking. Ask them to describe what's going on. And then the general flow that you can use is, or this is one that I like to use. Other people can get more complicated. But you know, like, what's the current state? How are things working now?

Right. Tell me about your business, all that type of stuff. Two is what are the problems? Share what are some of the things that are not working well? And I also like to ask what is working well? So it's nice to have that balance. Cause if something's working, you don't want to prescribe a solution that's gonna fix something.

That's not broken. So I think it's important to hear what's working, what's not working. You know, what is the ideal state look like? If they're talking to you, they have a problem. They just may not know what, what the end game looks like. But I think if you know what the outcome they're trying to get to, it's gonna help you.

Again, with your pitch. And lastly is the outcomes. What does good look like if they're able to get this resolved? So again, discovery is learning as much as you can about the customer themselves, the problem, and where they're trying to get to. Part two of effective discovery is, Listening and effective listening.

And another one of my favorite quotes from Stephen Covey is most people do not listen to understand. They listen with the intent to reply. They're either speaking or preparing to speak, which is so true. We know all know people like that. Especially in the corporate world where everybody's trying to get their two sense in their last words in, they're not listening to what's being said.

They're going straight into. what they wanna say next. And I, I'm gonna say one little side note. The benefit of this podcast has really taught me how to be a more effective listener. I can always be better, but you know, as I go through the course of the interview, in the early days, it was really about, all right, here's my question, and then I got asked my next question.

But what I found is some of the best episodes are, is when I'm actually listening to the guest and the conversation goes the way it makes sense, right? Again, it's, it's something we take for granted. But if you can pick up the keys and become a better listener, you know, it's gonna be much more impactful.

So what are some of the keys to effective listening? Right? Keep a curious and open mind, right? Um, listen beyond just the meaning of the word. So look at body language. You can usually tell from folks, right? If they're engaged, if they're not. If they're looking at their phone or their notes, um, you get a sense beyond just the words that they're saying.

So listen to their, to their body language. Um, listen with feeling and intuition. Be present in the moment with the conversation. Don't think about what you have to do next or there if you're in the meeting. Be 100% in the meeting. And the last tip that, which I really do like is play back what you heard.

Just, and, it's as simple as, I just wanna make sure that I heard this correctly or is this what you said? Um, one, it reinforces with the client, right? One, if it's their problem that they get to say it again. You hear it and it just clarifies, right? So there's no gray areas as you're, you're leaving the meeting.

And then lastly, a few other listening techniques, right? Listen, 80% of the time talk 20% of the time. You may have heard that, that breakdown before, but it's absolutely true, right? Eliminate the internal and external. Distractions. Don't bring your phone in, or if you do, put it away so you can't see it.

Don't have it buzzing on the, the side of the table. Be present in that conversation. Um, never interrupt or finish a sentence or thought for the client, even though if you know where they're going, let 'em finish it themselves. Another one that we don't do, or I, I still have trouble with, is stop talking.

When they begin talking, if they've got something to say, let 'em go. this is another one that we tend to be uncomfortable with is don't be afraid of silence. Resist responding. It's okay for it to sit and think a little bit before the conversation. Do not have to. The, the silence with small talk, right?

So again, these are just a few techniques. Some you probably already do really well, but just wanted to make sure that, you know, I gave you a few other ideas. So again, effective questions, but even more important. Effective listening. You do those two things, those, those discovery meetings are going to be so much more impactful and help you drive your business.

So, you don't need any fancy sales techniques or complex sales funnels. If you have a human to human conversation and you really our intent on helping them solve their problems, and you listen and you create that connection, you're gonna be much more. Selling than anybody that's, you know, read all the books and gone through the sales tactics, et cetera, et cetera.

So, plus doing this a few times, I think it'll eliminate some of the anxiety from, from selling, right? It, it really is just about having conversations, understanding and offering solutions to a problem for the customer. So, went through some of this a little bit quick. Please reach out to me if, if you have more questions or, or want to go deeper into any of this.

But, but just to summarize, one, shift your mindset from sales to problem solving. Two, use the, a simple framework to approach your prospects. And last but not least, learn how to have effective discovery sessions. Right. Discovery sessions can be, you know, fancy sales term sometime, but I do think it is a critical aspect to setting the stage for you closing more deal.

uh, if you enjoyed this episode, please do drop me a note. Uh, leave us a review. I thought it was important to go a little bit deeper cause I don't think people talk about discovery nearly enough and how effective and powerful it can be when you do it right, and maybe you got a few tweaks or, um, suggestions to, to make your approach, even a little bit more effective.

So, as always, thank you for listening and we'll talk next week.