How to Get Your Customers to Say Yes with Gap Selling

In this webinar, Nimble CEO Jon Ferrara discusses how to increase sales with Keenan, CEO and President of A Sales Guy Inc. and author of the book, Gap Selling. Keenan uses his extensive sales experience to inspire and educate sales leadership around the globe on how to achieve their goals.

What is Gap Selling?

When people are looking to buy something, they’re making a decision; whether it’s to buy something or to do something, they are looking to change. If you’re persuading someone to do something (like getting your kid to eat broccoli, or to get the person you’re dating to marry you), you’re selling. Change is at the root of every single sale. Salespeople are change agents; selling is about transitioning people from one state to another.

keenan a sales guy“Salespeople should be focused on delivering value and transitioning their customers from where they are today to where they need to be. Keep in mind, some of them may not even know where they want to go. Your job is to help them get there.”– Keenan

The “current state” if where your customer is today, and the future state is where they think they want to go based on their perception or belief of what they could get in that future state. The gap between the two is the value the customer receives and what you should be selling to.

Problem-Centric Selling Increases Sales

When most salespeople start selling, they start to talk about the future state. The problem with focusing on the future state is you have no comparison to where your customer is today. So how do you know that that future state has any value whatsoever? You have no clue where they are today or the size of the problem they’re trying to solve. Talking about the future state is product-centric selling, whereas problem-centric selling is about uncovering the customer’s issues.

Product-centric sellers talk about a product’s features, benefits, and capabilities, as well as themselves and their company. They sell from their perspective instead of the buyer’s, talking about the product outcomes — not the business outcomes.

Problem-centric sellers, on the other hand, actually focus on issues around the environment the person is currently in, the problems of that environment, and the impact of those problems on them, the organization, and their people. They quantify the impact and assess their emotion by asking questions such as: How painful is it? What’s happening? How much money are you losing? How inefficient are you? If you ask the right questions, they will start to realize they have a problem.

If you understand the current state, you can actually start to identify the root causes of their problem. Then you can ask them about their future state: Where do you want to go? What are your goals? How much are you trying to save? Now you’ve uncovered their motivation for purchase and you can sell the outcome – the value they’ll receive from your product or service.

Diagnose the Problem

People don’t buy on problems, they buy on the impact that the problem is having on their life. More importantly, they buy on the impact the problem is having in allowing them to achieve their goals and objectives and preferred quality of life. That’s how they buy.

But salespeople typically don’t start by diagnosing the customer’s problems and the impact of those problems on their business. Instead, they identify what’s causing the problem and then solve the problem for them with their product or service.

Similar to how a doctor will try to diagnose your complaint if you aren’t feeling well by asking a lot of questions about your current situation so they can help solve your problem, salespeople should respond in the same way with their customers.

diagnose customer issues

You need to be able to help customers uncover their problem, assess that problem, and get them to admit they have the problem. Then you can begin to help them evaluate the size of the problem and get them to think about the impact the problem is having on them and their organization and how it’s preventing them from getting where they want to be because they let that problem continue. 

Influence the Sale

Oftentimes, your customers don’t understand what they need or think they need. In many cases, you probably could have avoided a long sales cycle because they were never going to buy in the first place. Maybe you lost the sale because you couldn’t provide what they thought they needed, but you could have provided what they actually needed. Or you sold one product when you could have sold all of your products because you didn’t understand what they needed.

Don’t ever accept what a customer tells you they want. Don’t ever accept when a customer tells you what they think. You need to validate it. Salespeople need to be influencers, not order takers. Become an expert in their problem so you can have a conversation about their business, not your business.

When a customer tells you they need consulting services, ask them questions. Can you tell me about your organization? Can you tell me what the problem is behind this? Can you tell me about why you think you need consulting services? Can you tell me about what’s going on? Start a conversation and dig into what their problem is and what they are struggling with.

Capitalize on the Buyer’s Motivation

Whether they think they’ll get a better lead conversion, increase sales or be able to overcome price better, they buy for what they think the outcome will be.

Every problem has a varying impact on the customer. For example, consider three scenarios using gum. If you need to quench your dry mouth, you might spend $1 for a stick of gum because it isn’t a big deal. But you may spend $2 or $3 if you’re in a meeting and don’t want to embarrass yourself and lose a deal. And you’ll probably spend $20 and go to the 7-Eleven a quarter mile away if you’re going on a date you want to make sure goes well.

Each one of these problems has a greater impact. It’s about what the problem is and what’s the impact of that problem existing? How do you make it go away? The greater the impact, the more they are willing to pay.

gap selling tips

Build Credibility

It’s critical to your success to establish yourself as a trusted advisor to not only your prospects and customers but their influencers as well, so they then recommend you to those prospects and customers.

Establish trust by connecting with prospects and customers on the five F’s of life – friends, family, fun, food, and fellowship. People relate to these areas of commonality, and when you share about yourself outside of your business persona it connects you with other people.

When you’re connecting with another human being, that credibility combined with intimacy and trust gets them to open up to you about their business issues. As a professional, you can then solve those issues with your product or service.

Think about what happens if you won’t tell the doctor your symptoms when you’re sick because you’re embarrassed, or you won’t let them perform a thorough check-up because you’re uncomfortable. They aren’t going to be able to help you. If they can’t diagnose your problem, they can’t offer you a solution. The same scenario applies to your customers.

Your job is to help your customer maximize the transition from where they are today to where they’re going tomorrow. Then you have to get them to let you help. If they won’t let you help them, you cannot solve their problem. If you can’t solve their problem, you can’t sell, you can only pitch.

“Relationships in sales don’t matter if they’re based on likeability. But if you build a relationship on credibility, you win.” – Keenan

Prospect Smarter

Make a list of all of the problems your product or service solves. Then make a list of the impact on an organization if that problem exists, and the reasons why those problems can affect an organization. Those are the root causes. Now you can start prospecting and start diagnosing the problems your customers are looking to solve.

Buyers are selfishly motivated and understanding how to capitalize on that motivation is how you capture their attention. Problem-centric selling will help you solve your customers’ problems and influence the sale to close more deals.

jon ferrara “Rethink the way you sell and how you serve your prospects and customers. Service is the new selling and you need to help facilitate people’s growth in order to achieve your goals in the future.” – Jon Ferrara



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