Internal Issues

In which we learn to ask about "internal issues" that buyers may not tell us about. Airport bound last Tuesday, I stopped briefly at my office. Starting down the basement stairs, I noticed ... water...ankle deep... lapping gently around now saturated boxes of financial records, project deliverables, and family heirlooms. Silent scream .... I left for the airport, cell phone blazing, calling the building manager for help.

Long story short, water, boxes, and some heirlooms are gone. Here’s the follow up conversation with the building manager

Me: Thank you for pumping us out so many times in the last 36 hours.

BM: You’re welcome…[Obvious product pitch.] You know, you could put a sump pump in your basement and you wouldn’t have this problem. It would cost you about $1,500.

Me: Great idea. Let’s let the floor dry and then we can have a look.

Now, you’d think I would have said, “Yah, let’s do it.” But I didn’t.

He could have tried the “are you nuts?” close: “You want to wait? If you hadn’t stopped here on your way to he airport, you could have ended up with eight inches down there. You want to take that chance again? Are you nuts? We could do the pump by the end of the week, $1,500, and you don’t have this hassle. Let’s take care of this for you.” And, I might have said yes.

But my hesitation and your customers’ hesitations aren’t always about “the product.” They’re frequently not even about “the money.” The hesitations have to do with connections to other, even un-related elements of our lives or businesses. The building manager could have smoked this out with a few questions:

“Mr. Miller, this isn’t the first time you’ve had water down here. How have you been handling dampness and water in your basement to this point?

Fans and a dehumidifier.

“And how has that been working for you?”

Every year, during the heavy spring rains, I get some water. For the most part, I’ve been able to keep the cellar dry. And, I’ve lost a few things over the years when the spring rainwater came in.

“So, I’m hearing you have had some experience with water. What has been stopping you from putting in a sump pump or another system that would protect your things?

I didn’t think I was vulnerable to this level of flooding. I don’t really know what sort of system is best. I don’t know how to choose the right contractor and I don’t really have a lot of time to do the research. The hassle – the noise, having to move everything around, cleaning up the mess afterwards. I ‘m not sure what additional problems might come up if we punch a hole in the basement floor.

In other words, buyers may need our products, they may even be in “immediate pain,” and they may still hesitate because they have to handle “internal issues” they don’t tell us about.

Standard sales approaches would treat these internal issues as objections to be overcome with benefits or “feel-felt-found” razzmatazz. Trouble is: If the hesitation isn’t about the product, benefits, empathy, and razzmatazz don’t help. In my case, while I can see the benefits of the sump pump, I haven’t been able to resolve the issues that have stopped me from making what seems like an OBVIOUS decision.

An alternative sales approach might sound something like this:

“A lot of issues, Mr. Miller. So what would you need to handle or how would you want to work with someone to address them?”

Notice. Focus on decision process, not product. We’d be in a conversation leading to resolving my decision-stoppers. At this point, the building manager could be guiding me through a decision process that I haven’t been able to complete on my own… leading to a decision… leading to more sales, faster.

But, he didn’t. So, catch you next week. Time to move the fans.

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