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How To Sell Change: Selling Solutions To Problems

When I ask sellers “what do you sell?” the answer is always one of the above. Most give me a rundown of the type of product or service they sell. Sometimes, those explanations become mind-numbing downloads of product features even when they’re delivered with high energy explanations. Some tell me they sell turnkey solutions or that they build integrated partnerships with their customers or that they create differentiated platforms for enhanced service or some other mumbo jumbo that I don’t really understand (and doubt prospects do either). And some say they sell themselves because they know that people buy people. I’m always tempted to ask what the going rate is for selling yourself, but I’ve managed to refrain so far.

Here’s what I’ve never heard and what I think sellers should be selling: Change.

What Does It Mean To Sell Change?

Selling change would be inspirational. Selling change would make it impossible to be viewed as a commodity. Selling change would require more than a mere transaction and would certainly create a long-lasting relationship. Selling change would open conversations about collaboration.

Who doesn’t want change? People who won’t buy, that’s who! So selling change is also an easy way to filter out the prospects that are less likely to become buyers anytime soon. Selling change will put you (and keep you) in front of buyers who are ready, willing and able to make a change.

What’s the difference between selling your product and selling change? Selling your product focuses you on product features and conversations about your product. Selling change, however, focuses you and your buyer on what could be. That includes what could be different in their business, what could be better in their own lives, what could improve. It also includes how a problem could be solved. And you, as the seller of change, are the bridge between what is and what could be.

Selling change would be far more inspirational than selling a product. For you, the seller, it would be more motivating to sell change. You’d know that you were making a difference and creating change that is beneficial for others. For your buyers, it would be more motivating to buy change than to buy a product.

Consider your own buying tendencies. Given a choice between two similar products, would you buy the one that is a product or the one that is a solution? Would you buy the one that is a product or the one that represents a positive change? Would you be more inspired by a seller who brings you a laundry list of product features or a seller who brings you a vision for change that helps you achieve what you yourself have envisioned?

To sell change, you may need to brush up on the following skills. These aren’t the same skills you use when you pitch products.

  • Asking questions. In order to sell change, you’ll need to know what the desirable change would be for each individual buyer. It won’t be the same for everyone, because change that inspires will be change that meets individual desires. You’ll need to ask questions about what is important to the buyer and why it matters to the individual.
  • Demonstrating business acumen. In order to sell change, you’ll need to know a little bit about  your buyer’s business. Rather than starting from scratch, it’s best to have a solid foundation of business acumen. This includes knowing about your own industry as well as knowing about the basics of business. Understanding the essentials – what’s in between top line revenue and bottom line profit, what’s involved in strategic planning, how stakeholders measure company performance, and the like – is a good start. If you are not sure about these basics, read a book like MBA In a Day or What the CEO Wants You to Know.
  • Understanding the buyer’s perspective. With a foundation of business acumen, you will be better equipped to empathize with your buyers. Put yourself in their shoes. If you were responsible for the outcomes they are being measured on, what would you want to see happening in your business? What would change mean to you? What would inspire you to consider the products you are selling?
  • Storytelling. People respond to stories. Stories give us a complete look at a situation. We can see the “once upon a time” when a problem existed, follow the progress through the ups and downs of the main characters, and be inspired by the “happily ever after.” Stories that sellers tell should be about the buyer or about other buyers like him or her. The main character is not the seller. It’s the buyer. The seller would be the character that rides in on a white horse to solve the problem. You, the seller, are the hero when you “save” the buyer by introducing a positive change.
  • Inspiring others. People are inspired by a desirable and compelling image of the future. You need to paint that picture by telling stories with specific details related to your buyers. You create a vision of the future that will be created when they buy your product or service. You show the contrast between what is and what could be. Most importantly, to inspire others you need to believe in the higher purpose of your work. Beyond selling, you are helping people to achieve what they want to achieve. You help them make changes that get them closer to their hopes, dreams, plans, goals or visions of the future.

Sell change. You will differentiate yourself and inspire your customers.

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