Messages that Matter: Question 2—Why is the customer's problem worth solving?


Posted By Dr. Tom Sant | Jun 27, 2012


7 Key Questions to Answer When Writing a "Killer" Sales Proposal

We’ve been discussing the seven questions you need to be able to answer to write a client-centered proposal. Here they are:

  1. What is the client’s problem or need?
  2. Why is this problem worth solving?
  3. What results does the customer seek?
  4. Which specific result is the most important?
  5. What products or services can we offer that will solve the problem and deliver the right results?
  6. Of the solutions I can offer, which one is the best fit for this client?
  7. Why are we the right choice?

In the previous message, we discussed the importance of going below the surface to get an answer to Question 1. Now let's move on to the second question:

Why is This Problem Worth Solving?

Our purpose in asking this question is to "trace the chain of pain," to borrow Mike Bosworth's phrase. We need to find out who is affected by this problem. The further up the chain we go, the more important the problem is to the customer.

Asking 5 Whys is a technique used in the Six Sigma Define / Measure / Analyze / Improve / Control methodology. The goal of asking 5 Whys is to get to the root cause of a defect or problem. We can use that technique in our analysis of customer needs to get beyond the obvious and to gain a deeper understanding of the impact and implications of the customer's problem.

For example, suppose we asked the basic question, ‘What is the customer's need?’ and got the answer that the customer—an international shipping company that sends massive amounts of freight via ocean-going vessels—needs a highly secure communications network.

If we start asking why five times, we might begin to go beyond the mere definition of the asset the customer seeks and gain a deeper understanding of the issue:

What is the customer’s need? The customer needs highly secure transmissions.

  1. Why is that a need? Because the network will carry sensitive communications.
  2. Why is that a need? Because the communications traffic could expose passwords or vessel coordinates.
  3. Why is that a need? Because the vessels are carrying extremely valuable cargo.
  4. Why is that a need? Because some of the routes pass through areas where piracy occurs and because ships could be a target or terrorism.
  5. Why is that a need? To protect life and property, to minimize risk, to keep liability as low as possible, and to comply with regulatory mandates.

You can use the 5 Whys directly with the client (being careful not to become annoying), or you can use them with your team during the kick-off meeting. Clearly, the deeper your understanding, the more likely you are to have the problem correctly defined.

This is the kind of technique that can be captured in your sales enablement system, too. Call us for a demonstration of the Qvidian tools. We'd be glad to talk with you. And we have a few questions we'd like to ask. In fact, we have five of them.

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