Most salespeople are problem solvers. They fill customer “needs”. This isn’t a bad thing, until you realize that with the ubiquity of information online, a quick google search provides all the answers. Or so we think.

In his book, To Sell is Human, Daniel Pink discusses how the best salespeople are problem FINDERS, not just problem solvers.

The example Daniel gives is about a consumer (let’s call him Bob) shopping for a vacuum cleaner. Bob researches all the vacuum cleaner options online until he finds the one he wants. Then Bob scours the web to find find the best deal. He doesn’t even need a salesperson! What a great experience for Bob.

Bob doesn’t need a vacuum cleaner though. He needs cleaner carpets. But we need to dig even further if we want to know what is really going on.

What if the carpets are getting dirty for another reason? What if the real problem is the screens on the windows aren’t sufficient to keep the dust out. Or maybe the underlying issue is the carpet needs to be replaced.

See what’s happening here? Bob solved what he thought was his problem. But the real problem was not that he needed a new vacuum cleaner.

Where was the problem finder when Bob needed one!?

How does this translate into the HVAC world? When a building owner calls and asks for a price on some rooftops or a new chiller, she doesn’t really want a large piece of equipment that costs thousands of dollars to operate. She wants to provide a comfortable environment for her employees. Or she wants her manufacturing process equipment to be cooled.

You could just send over a price to replace her old equipment. Or you could be a problem FINDER!

In this fictitious example, let’s say the owner asks for high efficiency equipment to save money on her energy bills.

If you are just a problem solver, this is easy. You call up your HVAC distributor and ask for pricing on high efficiency equipment. Easy peasy.

But if you are a problem finder, you find out that the building has no insulation. And upon further investigation, you learn that a $2,500 investment in insulation will cut the cooling load by 25%, and thus will require less equipment and will save MORE energy than the original high efficiency equipment would have.

If you’ve been in sales for a long time, this is probably a new way of thinking. Pink explains how the sales profession has changed over time: “In the past, the best salespeople were adept at accessing information and at answering questions. Today, they must be skilled at curating the massive troves of data, and at asking questions, uncovering possibilities and finding unexpected problems."

How can you be a problem solver on a project you are working on today?


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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


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