The greatest sales people are superior problem solvers. You may believe that such a broad 'problem solving' talent comes from innate features, but all the critical aspects that allow sales people to become great problem solvers can be trained and developed. With creativity, broad knowledge and attention to detail in hand, your sales people will become excellent at developing laser-targetted solutions to any problem they may encounter. In this article, we'll discuss three areas sales people should focus their attention if they want to develop quickly into great problem solvers, and what benefits they can expect to reap.
Practice, Practice, Practice
This isn't so much a change in activity as a change in perception. You see, sales people doing their jobs already put the time and effort in to practice problem solving; they just need to think the right way. Every customer is not a warm body to sell to, but a person with a problem that needs solving. Sales people who think in those terms will not only close more sales, not only build stronger relationships with their customers, but also learn to think flexibly and creatively in both viewing problems and resolving them.
The same situation can be looked at as different problems, each with their own solutions, and the more sales people practice looking at what they're dealing with in such a way the better they'll become.
Perceiving the Big Picture
Sales people looking to become excellent problem solvers need to be able to understand the big picture when they walk into a situation. That's partially a matter of practice and training, but it's also about foundational knowledge. To see the big picture and have it mean anything requires broad, up-to-date knowledge. Sales people that pay attention to changes elsewhere in the company, in the industry, in the customer base, will understand what happens at a much higher level than their inattentive self-centered peers. Those that develop a breadth of knowledge will naturally gain a better insight into the 'big picture' in any associated situation, which in turn will serve as practice at seeing the big picture in other situations.
Of course, if the strategic considerations of a big picture view make for excellent problem solvers, so too does taking special note of the fine details of execution-the tactical side of sales and business. Those sales people who carefully monitor their interactions with customers, coworkers, business partners, and others will develop a much stronger sense of the impact of their actions, and the actions of others. With that sense of impact, it becomes much easier to see effective, efficient solutions to big problems that hide in the small details. In sales, using the wrong word to address a customer can kill million-dollar deals; it's thus sensible to pay very, very close attention to those words.
This is where sales people who utilize metrics solutions, define and refine a sales process, and keep close records of their sales work see their gains, and those same gains that improve the process of solving individual 'sales problems' work at making them great general problem solvers.
Sales people striving to become great problem solvers would do well to consider their approach to their daily tasks in as many ways as possible. The many simultaneous problems of a single customer, and how they might resolve them. The big picture of the company moving forward and the little picture of how they break the ice with a hesitant prospect. Those that miss the forest for the trees, or the trees for the forest, will never become truly great problem solvers.