Prospecting and selling under the correct assumption that selling a solution to a problem is a superior sales approach than selling the features and benefits of a product or service, comes with the added work of not only finding a problem to solve, but getting your prospect to recognize and admit to it as well. That can be delicate. No one likes to be told their baby is ugly. Even if, especially if, it happens to be true. 

Asking a prospect to recognize the existence of an issue that you can possibly fix is also asking them to come to terms with a few realizations that are not pleasant.


– They have a problem that they either failed to see, or failed to see the importance of.

– They are not qualified (or at least not as qualified as you) to fix that problem.

– They now need to rely on someone else to solve the problem for them.

Simple, but not easy. Navigating that conversation correctly is going to come down to the words you choose. Choose the wrong words, and you create a hostile environment. Buying is powered by trust, and trust is in short supply in a critical and hostile environment. One of our key duties as sales professionals is creating the environment that makes it safe and comfortable for our prospects to buy (which is why “Hard Closing” works in the movies when Alec Baldwin does it, but backfires in real life.)

Let’s say I am attempting to sell you a new printer for your office. When I call on you to qualify the pain of the problems associated with your current printer, my word choice is going to determine where or to whom the blame is assigned.

If I qualify pain by asking if you or your team “struggle” with the printer, or “have problems” with the printer, the insinuation is that the fault lies with you and/or your team. Defense mechanisms engage. You may even choose not to replace the hated printer because it would mean admitting that you are at fault. “Struggle” is one of those words that assigns blame. We say someone is struggling with something with the intended meaning that they are not performing.

A slight change on my choice of words however, can shift the blame to a neutral space or even on to the printer itself. Are you “Unhappy” with the printer? Are you “disappointed” in the results the printer provides? Do you find it “challenging” to get your printing needs fulfilled? Those words do not necessarily imply the issue is yours. It doesn’t rule it out either. It just neutralizes the ego threat of admitting there is a solvable problem I might be able to help with.

Success or failure are usually determined by the words we choose. You and/or your sales team should not be randomly picking the words that power your pain confirmation statements. Every aspect of the wording of EVERY step of your sales process should be deliberately inserted to create a safe buying environment, where the buyer can acknowledge pain without putting their ego at risk. There is no single right answer here, but there are a lot of incorrect answers.

The words we choose determine success or failure.