Modern Selling: Selling Solutions vs. Solving Problems

Aug. 12, 2021
There is a marked difference between pushing technology and truly being a trusted advisor
This article first appeared in the August 2021 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter.   

A few years ago, a salesperson for a tree trimming business cold-called me at my house. After I opened the door, he immediately jumped into his sales pitch about how many licenses they had and how competitive their prices were. About 20 seconds into his speech, I stopped him and told him that I was busy. Translation: “I’m not going to buy from you and want you to leave.”

Within a month, a salesperson from a similar company knocked on my door with the same intention; however, he had a different approach. When I opened the door, he calmly introduced himself and said: “I noticed that your live oak has several branches hanging over a bedroom upstairs, and they don’t look that healthy. Would you like me to take a closer look at them and give you a proposal to remove the risk of them falling?”

I agreed. In less than an hour, he gave me a proposal for that tree and another one hanging above our garage. Guess what? I spent $1,400 to get some tree limbs removed.

What was the difference between the two cold calls? The first person focused only on their solutions and the benefits of their solution. I don’t need solutions – I have the Internet. And so do your customers.

4 Keys to Problem Solving

If you want to engage more new prospects and deepen your relationships with current clients, then you must live in the world of their problems. Salespeople too often live in the world of solutions. Solutions are important, but if the conversation isn’t wallowing in their problems, then engagement will be minimal.

Hereare four best practices that will help salespeople focus on their customers’ problems:

1. Identify the top five problems your customers have that your company can solve. If you wrote down five random items that you encounter throughout the day, you would see exponentially more of those items than you currently do. As a test, write down “yellow shirt.” After writing these two short words, you will start to see dozens of yellow shirts that you didn’t notice before. It is the same with your clients’ problems – until you create this list, you will miss opportunities with which you could engage your prospects and clients.

2. Stay with the problems as long as possible. Once you identify a prospect’s problem(s), we all have the urge to shout from the mountaintops about our solution and how awesome it is. Don’t do it. Stay. Stay with the problem and continue to challenge and ask questions about it. Why is it important? What is the source of the problem? How does if impact your point of contact? How much is it costing their business? The longer you stay with the problem, the clearer it becomes to your customer that they need to fix it. Stay there until they’re begging for a solution. Then – and only then – bring your solution to them!

3. State problems in proposals. By definition, a proposal is a document that illustrates a company’s scope of solution, terms and price. Most proposals do not pay attention to the problems being solved. In every section of your proposal, you should plainly state the problems that will be solved and the impact of the solution. An injured athlete does not want to buy a knee brace; they want the pain to go away. Write about the pain relief.

4. Look for problems before they happen.If you want to maintain lifelong clients, then make them successful. One of the best ways a security sales professional can make their clients successful is by finding problems before they happen. There are systems that do this, but there is nothing better than a trusted advisor breaking bad news to a client before it becomes tragic news. Do this for your clients and they will never leave you.

Chris Peterson is the founder and president of Vector Firm (, a sales consulting and training company built specifically for the security industry. To request more info about the company, visit