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Use This Problem Solving System to Lead Strong Discussions with Buyers

Sellers: Use This Problem-Solving System to Lead Strong Discussions with Buyers

blog author
Written by Mike Schultz
President, RAIN Group

When it comes to solving what may appear to be an intractable problem, sellers and sales managers are often at a loss for how, exactly, to lead the problem-solving process.

In sales, you’ll frequently find yourself in situations where you’re:

The issues you’re dealing with may be thorny and complex, but the problem-solving process doesn’t have to be. 

What Is Problem Solving?

When you use our 4 Stages of Structured Problem Solving, you’ll be better equipped to resolve problems and lead discussions—internally with colleagues and externally with buyers—for the best results.

The structured format simply means you’re approaching the issue systematically and, with only four stages, it’s easy to use the process for all types of issues.

4 Stages of Structured Problem Solving

4 Stages of Structured Problem Solving

The four stages of leading an effective problem-solving discussion are:

  1. Download: This is where you name the issue you’re tackling and summarize key points about the current status of the issue.
  2. Exploration: This is where you make sure you get all the relevant assumptions on the table.
  3. Ideation: This is where you explore ideas and possibilities for actions you might take.
  4. Action: This is where you decide what to do to solve the problem.

4-Step Problem-Solving Process

Let’s walk through each step and explore some common problems and issues you can tackle using this approach.

Problem-Solving Tips to Make Your Sales Discussions Most Successful

Take One Stage at a Time

This is a somewhat linear process. You might go backwards here and there, but the common missteps in discussions stem from jumping from problem statement right to ideation and action without exploring the issue more fully. Don’t ideate until you finish exploring. Don’t explore until the problem or issue statement is clear. Same goes for each stage.

Balance Advocacy and Inquiry

You don’t want this to become an exercise in a bunch of people simply stating their positions. When you ask questions—or inquire—as well as make statements—or advocate —you’ll get better results and build better relationships.

Clarify the Meaning

People often say and mean one thing that others interpret to mean something else entirely. If you're at all in doubt about what someone means, ask a clarifying question such as, “Can you expand on that?” “Tell me more about...” “Did I understand when you said…?” And encourage others to ask clarifying questions as well. These questions help clarify everyone’s thinking and can keep the problem-solving discussion on track.

Encourage Diverse Points of View

This means asking the group for diverse points of view, but it also means inviting people to these meetings that have diverse points of view. Some people are better idea people than others. If you’re looking for innovative ideas for how to do something, invite someone to the meeting who tends to be innovative and thinks outside the box.

When you use these 4 Stages of Structured Problem-Solving: Download, Exploration, Ideation, and Action, you’ll immediately see the benefits of organizing these kinds of discussions.

And you’ll add value to any discussion with your sales team or with buyers.

Last Updated May 6, 2022

Topics: Sales Conversations