Avoiding a Sales Pothole

Successful salespeople are problem solvers. You’ve heard the story of the Tortoise and the Hare. What’s the point of that story? Perseverance and consistency. But there’s also another point – It’s about taking your time at the beginning to truly understand the problem.

You can’t be an effective problem solver if you don’t properly understand what the problem is.

Many people rush to judgement in today’s culture. They think they understand the problem, and then are shocked when things they do don’t work! That’s because they never really understood the problem in the first place.

Let me give you 2 examples to illustrate this principle, and as it applies to business.

Imagine you’re driving down a highway, and you come across a large pothole. So large you can’t go around it very easily. You stop your car to investigate, while several other cars are now coming upon the scene. The first drivers asks you, “What’s the problem”?

You respond, “There’s a large pothole in the road”. Now, of course that’s a problem. But it’s not THE problem. It’s a symptom of the problem.

Then the second person on the scene says “You’re making me late for work”. That’s not the problem either. That’s a consequence of the problem.

Then what’s the problem, you might be thinking – The real problem is erosion. When there’s a hole in the road, it’s typically from erosion. There’s water running underneath the road, combined with the weight of the road that forms a pothole.

The hole is not the problem. It’s merely a symptom. The fact you can’t go around it, at least very fast which makes you late for work is merely a consequence. The problem doesn’t go away by simply filling it with dirt or paving over it.

No! You haven’t addressed the problem. You have to address the erosion, or in time it simply reappears. Taking the time to truly understand the problem is the first step in solving it.

Recently, I had a client who was experiencing high employee turnover at one location. He was sharing with me how nearly half of new employees were leaving within two years! So I asked him, “What’s the problem”?

He said, “What do you mean what’s the problem. I just told you”! I replied “No, I don’t think that’s the real problem”. I think that’s a symptom of a problem. He hesitated and then proceeded to tell me how expensive it is to hire, on-board, and train new employees and it was costing him a lot of money. I said, “That’s a consequence of the problem, but that’s not the real problem”.

Now I wasn’t using semantics to say that “Technically isn’t the problem”. These things are problematic, but they aren’t the problem. “We’re going to have to dig a little deeper” I said.

Then I shared with him how some of the employees had come to me and shared how the manager was well liked until he became stressed at work. He then would treat employees with disrespect, which led to disengagement, and ultimately led to many leaving. The old saying that “Employees leave bad managers, not good companies” was in play in this scenario.

The real problem was poor leadership which displayed itself in employee turnover, and a consequence of that was high cost and lost production.

When you address the real problem, three things occur:

  1. You prevent future occurrences. Employees aren’t intimidated and sense more empowerment, because their leader respects them and they him or her.
  2. You eliminate symptoms. Your high employee turnover is solved.
  3. You eliminate consequences. Costs of recruiting, hiring, on-boarding, and training are lowered. And, you gain more production!

This is a valuable lesson you can apply to any area of your life. If you’re having arguments with your spouse or children, ask yourself “What’s the real problem here?” If you’re looking to get healthier, ask yourself “What’s the real problem that got me here in the first place?” Maybe you’ve been given a medical diagnosis, but the problem that got you there was a bad habit.

As sales people, our job is to help our clients solve their problem and not cover up a symptom. Successful salespeople do exactly that. Zig Ziglar said “You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.”

Help others solve their REAL problem, and you’ll avoid the potholes of symptoms and consequences while your sales will driving on smooth highways.

You can start by attending one our weekly free leadership mastermind calls or by registering for our next upcoming webinar. Start your journey today.

About Steve Bellman

When I’m at my best, I provide Trustworthy Mentoring that guides insurance pro’s out of the most dangerous place you can be in – Your Comfort Zone. Without trustworthy guidance, you’ll experience the number one problem facing insurance agencies – declining sales, disloyal customers, and an underdeveloped staff. As a successful and trustworthy insurance sales and sales management professional with over 25 years of experience, I can deliver Trusted Guidance that will help you chart a new course to increased sales and staff development so you can experience inspiring growth and success in your career, business and life.



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