You Must Identify the Problem, Then Sell the Solution

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Though your mousetrap may be the most efficient in the world, painted a tantalizing, Swiss cheese color and priced correctly, you still might have difficulty selling it. Why? Because people with mice look for "answers to their rodent problems," not mousetraps.

A keen understanding of this dynamic is especially important in business-to-business marketing, which focuses on developing client loyalty through long-term, value-oriented relationships. Of course, your product's or service's features and benefits are significant and should be explained to underscore the credibility of your offering. But BTB transactions, much more than single-purchase exercises, are usually part of complex, lengthy interactions involving many people. They are developed and nurtured over time and designed to help clients find solutions to problems and meet challenges.

Solving a potential client's problem can be the strongest argument when you're trying to persuade someone to buy, and buy now. This approach to selling can apply to almost every product and service, especially with direct mail marketing. Because direct mail is a very flexible selling medium, it is a first-rate way to state a problem clearly and detail how your product or service can solve it.

Everyone has seen the marketing campaign of a major cellular carrier where people have a number of reception bars floating above their heads. The problem: If you have fewer bars, you're in trouble when you want to make a call. The solution: The company's superior, consistent service always provides good reception. Because the solution is the message, price and ease of operation are hardly mentioned.

Sometimes companies overstate problems to sell their solutions. Pharmaceuticals are masters at this. Given the number of TV spots, print ads, direct mail pieces, e-mail blasts, billboards and even sports stadium signs devoted to Viagra and Cialis, one would think that every male over a certain age had the particular malady that those products mitigate. What these firms have so ingeniously created is a mindset, driving men - with real or imagined problems - to their doctors. The result: astronomical sales.

You might not have the chance to affect markets on such a grand scale. However, you can learn from the above. Your job is to identify a problem and promote the solution your service or product provides. Also, remember that people don't always realize what their problems are. But when you show you understand their concerns, they usually recognize themselves and respond.

The basic, obvious benefits that businesses seek when buying products and services bear repeating:

· If it's cheaper, it helps their economics.

· If it works faster, it saves them time.

· If it's streamlined, it's easier to use - less hassle.

· If it's the latest technology, it offers prestige and pride of ownership.

· If it's luxurious or top of the line, it boosts status.

· If it's a first-time or limited offer, it provides exclusivity.

However, it's your job to go beyond touting benefits and uncover the deeper value of your items as they relate to prospects' problems. To learn what's on the minds of prospects you want to convert into clients, you may have to spend time researching, talking with people or conducting surveys. But it will be time well spent.


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