4 Sales Client Problems You Won’t Be Able to Solve

The Gist:

  • Failing to prospect strategically can lead you to accept bad deals.
  • You cannot and should not try to solve all your client’s problems.
  • The quality of your sales life is directly proportional to the quality of your clients.

One of the challenges of not having a good territory and account plan, a pursuit plan for acquiring new clients and new opportunities, and time blocked for prospecting is that you can find yourself without the deals that you want and need (wanting deals is good, needing deals is not so good). Once you fall behind it’s incredibly hard to catch up, which can cause you to pursue deals of a much lower quality than you need. While it’s good to be hungry, it’s bad to be starving. To a starving person, everything looks like a meal, including bad deals.

When you take those bad deals, you often inherit client problems that go well beyond what your solution can address.  As a consultative salesperson, you are responsible for helping your clients solve certain problems so they can maximize their opportunities and results. In fact, your company was started to solve some sort of problem in some particular way. But you can’t—and shouldn’t—solve every problem a prospective client might have. There are some problems you must avoid trying to solve, because they are bad for you, your company, and your results.

a salesperson avoids the problems that she cannot solve

Not Your Problem to Solve

Some problems your prospective clients may have are simply not yours to solve. You want to stay as far away from them as you can, so you can focus your time and energy on problems you can actually solve.

1. Bad Credit:

A prospective client may have bad credit, a poor payment history, or other challenges parting with their money by the date they are required to pay their suppliers. Working with them means accepting those problems, even though they are not the problems for which you provide solutions. Their inability or unwillingness to pay your invoices will quickly become your problem, at best in terms of collections and at worst in terms of writing off the entire account.

2. Other Money Problems:

There are companies that would very much like your help, even though they cannot afford the help they need. They will check all the boxes, including having the exact problem you specialize in solving and the will to change. But if all they can pay is pocket change, their cash problem becomes your problem, one that requires extensive negotiations to reach a price they can accept. It is never your company’s job to find a way to serve every prospective client.

3. Unrealistic Expectations:

When you are young in sales, there’s a certain schadenfreude in hearing a prospective client trash your competitor for their constant failures. Every high crime and misdemeanor they recite, you think, is just more motivation for them to change partners. It’s only later that you find out that the reason no one has ever been able to please your contacts is because their expectations are unrealistic.

4. Poor Treatment:

Some companies and contacts believe that suppliers need to be kept in their place. Instead of treating them as partners, they treat them like servants, routinely brutalizing the people who are taking care of their needs. When these contacts sign your contract, they have committed to buying from you. When you sign the contract, you have committed your team to dealing with immature people who don’t value their alleged partners.

Two salespeople work on a problem that they can solve

The Problems You Solve

You may have to help your clients improve their cash flow, but it’s up to them to pay for the better outcomes you create for them. If your company’s primary competitive strategy is lower price, you may be able to provide an acceptably low price for a relatively low-value product. If you are blessed to sell at the highest price in your category, you generally help your clients by reducing their costs or providing some strategic advantage that helps them make more money. In other words, you can help clients improve their profitability or generate more revenue, but you can’t do either of these things without being paid for doing so.

You can also reduce the stress that your contacts are under by giving them a solution that eliminates some of the problems they face. You can make things better for their people. But you will find it incredibly difficult to serve clients in a culture that doesn’t value people (something difficult to reverse, because a fish always rots from the head down). Neither you nor your company has a solution to match these problems, so your best choice is to walk away as soon as you recognize the signs. The quality of your sales life is going to be largely determined by the quality of the clients you acquire and serve.

Do Good Work:

  • What problems do your prospective clients have that you should avoid making your own?
  • What behaviors might alert you to a future client problem, one that will soon become your own?
  • What changes do you need to make to improve the quality of your client portfolio?

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