Why Problem Statements strengthen the sales process

Why Problem Statements strengthen the sales process

4 minute read

In today’s issue, I’m going to share 3 reasons why agreeing and signing off a problem statement with your customer at the very start of an opportunity will win you more deals (faster).

Most organisations except the cost of lost, stalled and scaled back deals as the price of doing business but increasing pressure on sales leaders to do more with less and increasing numbers of reps missing target has got Sales Leaders looking at practical ways to reduce the number of deals lost, stalled and scaled back.

But why are Problem Statements an effective tactic to combat this?


Let’s get started.

Firstly, What is a Problem Statement?

A well-defined problem statement provides boundaries, criteria for success and a time frame, it’s:

  • Outcomes focused
  • Specific and measurable
  • Time framed with a deadline
  • Includes decision making values and boundaries
  • Solves at the highest level, not just a part or partial statement.

I always look to refine the problem statement during the early stages of an opportunity, the second or third iteration will be better than the first draft and to be effective it must be agreed and signed off by the buying team top to bottom.

For example.

Problem – A logistics business that moved to a 24×7 operation.

  • Our IT service desk users experience a greatly reduced level of support outside normal office hours. Out of hours IT issues are estimated to cost £250k p.a. in lost productivity.
  • In normal office hours 97% of tickets are responded to within the SLA and 94% resolved within the SLA. Outside normal hours this falls dramatically to 81% and 32% respectively
  • Out of normal hours the number of orders processed and staffing levels have more than tripled in the last two years however, our internal IT teams out of hours cover has remained unchanged.

Problem statement:

(How do we) Maintain a fully functional service desk to meet the needs of users to the same standards 24×7. Uphold current in hours performance against a single 24×7 SLA and achieve 97% response and 94% resolution rates by the end of Q3 within the approved additional annual budget of £100k (?)

Having a crystal-clear problem statement provides an anchor point that helps to bring deals back in to focus and ensures everyone is starting from the same point and with the same objective.

1. Better Qualifying, (Win Rate, Conversion Costs)

During 1:1 reviews asking reps to test their proposed solution against the problem statement helps:

  • Prioritise opportunities, avoids wasting time on deals your unlikely to win, not worth the time or will regret winning
  • Test your solution against the problem statement then identify and discuss any obvious alternative solutions with the buyer. Include any alternatives and the reasons the buyer downgraded them in presentations and exec summary
  • Demonstrating a deeper understanding of the problem, provides clarity of the solution and raises your reps utility with the customer

2. Faster Progression, (Stalled Deals)

Deals stall for a number of reasons, a key person on the buying team leaves or someone on the buying team starts exploring and introducing new solutions or issues.

I find problem statements help reduce the chance of deals stalling:

  • Buyers often introduce alternative solutions, approaches, or issues during the process, I find sense checking them against the problem statement really useful, most won’t meet some or all of the success criteria. Leaving you to focus on any that do.
  • Sometimes people on the buyers side leave and are replaced, I find it useful to anchor new people to the defined problem and for bringing them up to speed quickly
  • It also gives new people confidence that you’re on the right track by revealing alternatives previously considered and why they were downgraded

3. Effective Negotiating, (Win Rate, Scaled Back)

We’ve all been blindsided by buyers during a negotiation, changing or scaling back a deal. An effective tactic I’ve found to counter this is testing their changes against the problem statement, if the changes fall short of solving the problem then you’re in a strong position, if they don’t then you may be paying for a mistake you made when qualifying.

I find a well-defined, signed off problem statement helps avoid or reduce:

  1. Deals scaled back to avoid the risk of signing off someone else’s mistake
  2. Deals scaled back or lost due to a new approach or issue
  3. Deals Lost to an obvious alternative like an internal team
  4. Losing to a No or Delayed decision as the solution meets all requirements of the Problem Statement.

When you’re ready there are 3 ways we can help you unlock your data:

  1. Get started with a Sales Leaders Briefing
  2. Find and close the gaps in your Pipeline Management & Sales Forecasting
  3. OneView our Pipeline and Forecasting app. 


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