Focusing on selling a solution limits possibility

Do you know what your prospect needs to buy? Really?

Do you believe that because you can see their problem, and your solution fits, and they seem to be a prospect, that you know the best solution?

I have a story to share.

Years ago I was training a telemarketing group in a call center making calls on behalf of a well-known technology company. As part of my training with them, every participant did some real-time calls with me. It was 5:10 on a Friday afternoon – in Rochester NY, in December. Got the picture? Snow up to your nose, and everyone bundling up to leave for the weekend.

I was working with John M. As his next call, he was referring to a write-in coupon with a name on it of someone who wanted more information about an accounting package. Although I taught my students that the name on the coupon was not necessarily the potential prospect, and to ask for someone who might be needing the accounting software they were selling (not to mention, they sold 5 different packages for construction companies with accounting being only one of them), John asked for Lou, the person whose name appeared.

A woman answered. “Lou isn’t here. He’ll be back on Monday.’

John said Thanks, and hung up. What happened? John assumed it was a secretary. “Call her back and let me talk,” I said. And John redialed.

The same woman answered. Here is what happened.

SDM: Hi. My name is Sharon-Drew Morgen, and I’m calling from XYZ. I wonder if you’re seeking to add any new business software or accounting packages to the software that’s currently helping you with your business?

MRS. LOU: We better be or I’m getting a divorce on Wednesday.

SDM: Excuse me?

MRS. LOU: Our accounting person left last May, and I said I’d take over the accounting job for a month – and that was 7 months ago. And I told Lou that if he didn’t hire someone by Wednesday, I was leaving him. Do you have an accounting package? Because if you do, I’ll buy it right now.

SDM: Yup,we do. But….


LOU: Hi. I’m Lou. Are you really going to save my marriage! I’m excited. Tell me!

SDM: [needless to say I was rather speechless at this point] Wow. So glad I can help! Let’s see if I really can! I’m with XYZ and we have a range of software packages for small construction businesses to help you run your businesses more efficiently. One is an accounting package. How would you know that the package we have would manage your accounting needs – or if any of the other ones could help also?

LOU: I’d know if I were still married on Thursday. I’ll buy the accounting package to start with. What else do you have?

SDM: There are 4 others packages. Maybe I can get back to you on Monday morning and explain them to you all to you – I bet you’d like some information on the accounting package you just bought as well. [At this point, John was laughing so hard he was crying because I had no idea what the software did. I was doing Buying Facilitation™ training for them, and hadn’t had a lot of prep around the ins and outs of their 5 software packages other than knowing approximately what they did. I was selling stuff that I had absolutely no idea about. None.]

LOU: Not Monday. Now.

SDM: Well, to tell you the truth, I’m only the one with the mouth. The ones with the brains are at their desks or getting ready to leave. I can try to get them for you and then we can have a conference call in about 20 minutes?

LOU: We’ll be here waiting.

John and I hit the back stairs, as the elevators were full and in use. We ran our butts off to get folks before they left. We managed to grab 4 people who knew the packages in detail. We all ran back downstairs – jackets and coats and boots flying down the stairs – and I called Lou and his wife back. We then had a conference call, with me moderating and asking cogent questions, like:

With your small workforce now, a construction package that would handle 20 people would be overkill. [Lou’s response: we’re growing. I like what you’re saying. We’ll grow into it.] or

The learning curve on this is high: what would you need to get from us to make sure you were staying on track and we’d be there to support you if it got confusing? [Lou’s response: I’m going to buy a few packages from you. Would that entitle me to some training?]

In the end, Lou and his wife bought 3 out of our 5 software packages. And we saved their marriage.


  1. Don’t ask for the person you think is the decision maker. Everyone is the decision maker.
  2. Don’t limit your solution sale to what you think they need; that biases and limits possibility. Let them explore the full range of possibilities and you can sell them more.
  3. At the front end of the buying journey, you don’t need to know a lot of detail about what you are selling. But you need to know the elements involved in their buying decision journey.

Btw – I lost my $200 pen running up those damn stairs.


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