Sales 3.0 & 'Problem Finding'

I've been reading To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink, a great book that argues quite persuasively that we are all salespeople; that the most important thing that each of us does every day -- regardless of whether or not we're in sales -- is to sell. Selling your family, your friends, your colleagues, your customers, your boss. And he argues that most of the jobs of the future (mostly focused around education and healthcare) are going to be all about "moving people", e.g. selling people. Pink also puts a fine point on what I wrote about the other day where I compared Sales 1.0 and Sales 3.0. He notes that today's sales environment is more about “problem finding” than “problem solving”. He uses the example of someone purchasing a vacuum cleaner.

A guy might say, "I need a new vacuum cleaner". So the problem, is: he needs a new vacuum cleaner. It used to be that to solve this problem he would drive down to a a store and talk to a vacuum cleaner salesperson who would explain the options, features and pricing. This salesperson no longer exists -- or if they do, they're not that valuable anymore. Information on vacuum cleaners is easy to find on the internet. You can educate yourself on everything you need to know about buying a vacuum cleaner while sitting on your couch. The information is now a commodity. So the “problem solver" type of seller is going away. We don't need salespeople to solve the "I need a new vacuum cleaner" problem anymore.

But suppose that this guy’s problem isn’t that he needs a new vacuum cleaner. What if the screens in his house are letting too much dust into the house? Or what if his carpets are of poor quality and are attracting too much dust and replacing them would solve his problem?

This is what sales 3.0 does. It gives buyers insights (that's where the value is). But not insights on how to solve the problem, but what their problem actually is. Remember, information on the solution, in most cases, is now a relative commodity.

I love the vacuum cleaner analogy.

Sales 3.0 is about helping buyers understand their true problem.

Related to this, this is why RFPs (request for proposals) are now so backwards. Large enterprises don't need to execute an RFP to figure out what feature set will solve their problem at the lowest cost, they need advisers (sellers) to help them figure out what their problem is.

As more and more salespeople adopt the sales 3.0 approach, I think we’ll start to see the perception of salespeople begin to improve. If sellers are sincerely trying to provide buyers with insights on their business and helping them think through their problem, buyers won't avoid salespeople, they'll seek them out.