"It’s not that you can’t sell, you can’t diagnose. Your product doesn’t drive the sale, your customer’s problem does. Being a great salesperson means being able to diagnose your customer’s problem and understanding the impact the problem is having on their business.”

This excerpt is from Gap Selling, by Keenan. (yes, he goes by just his first name. Or is it his last?).

Keenan’s book is all about “The Gap” - the distance between the customer’s current state and a (better) future state. A SMALL GAP = a SMALL PROBLEM = NO NEED (Which means no sale for you!). A large gap, however, means there is a BIG problem to be solved, and therefore a need for a solution.

Keenan further simplifies GAP SELLING by stating: "Sales happen when the future state is a better state.”

Here are some FUTURE STATES desired by YOUR customer:

  • An edge over their competition

  • Paths to previously unexplored markets

  • Increased profits

  • More rapid path to market

  • Heightened investor interest

  • Millions of dollars in savings

  • Streamlined manufacturing process

  • The eye of the new generation

  • Faster communications

  • Happier, more engaged employees

  • Better customer retention

  • Improved personal service

  • More leads

  • Increased response times

  • Increased revenue

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The first step in the Gap Selling process is to gather info on the customer’s CURRENT state, which has 5 critical elements (This is similar to Neil Rackham’s SPIN Selling process: Situation, Problems, Implications, Need pay-off). Here is everything you need to gather:

  • The literal and physical facts about your customer. This includes PROCESS facts (specifically how they do processes).

  • Their problems

  • The impact of those problems

  • The root causes of the problems

  • What effect those problems are having on your customers’ emotional state.

The goal is not to ask specific questions. It’s to get specific information.

One major thing to note as you begin this process: Your customer or prospect has to WANT you to help them. They have to be vulnerable and willing to give you information that helps you uncover THE GAP. If they aren’t sharing information you need, you haven’t established the credibility to help them.

Once you know exactly where your customer is NOW, and what FUTURE STATE they desire, the selling process becomes much easier. Handling objections is a cinch.

The rest of Keenan’s book dives deeper into all aspects of the sales process, including prospecting, proposals, following up, handling objections and closing.

It is definitely a book I’m recommending to everyone in the sales profession.

If you read it let me know what you think!

I’ll leave you with this: Great salespeople don’t sell to a need, they sell to problems. Don’t focus on selling your product, focus on selling the desired outcome.

What is your favorite sales book? Let us know in the comments!

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Brad Telker
Vice President, Applied Systems Group at cfm Distributors, Inc.

Brad joined the cfm team in 2006, and now as the Vice President of the Applied Systems Group, he focuses on business development, as well as helping contractors and engineers find creative and unique solutions to any size HVAC project. When he’s not at work, Brad enjoys reading, running and spending time with his family