I’ll Make Your Problem My Problem

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A sales person’s job is to find people that need help. They match a customer’s pain point to a solution that fixes it. An effective salesperson is good at understanding and empathizing with someone else’s problems.

I’ve never done sales, but in a small company, everyone needs to be a salesperson. I thought I’d hate it, and be awful at it, but it turns out that selling is not so bad when you have a great product and a team you can take pride in.

Though this is my first time doing any type of sales work, I’ve spent years doing consulting, and it turns out consulting and sales have a lot in common.

I was very good at consulting. I could solve problems quickly, deliver on time, and convince people in the organization to get on board with a new solution. I could turn a sour relationship sweet again. I thought it was because I was smart and friendly, but that’s not the real reason I was good at consulting.

The real reason I was good at consulting was that I made my client’s problems my problems. I’d send emails at 2am reminding them of the important thing that had to happen that day. In the shower, I’d think about everything that could go wrong, and ways to mitigate those risks, even if the problems had nothing to do with the work I was contracted to do. If there was something causing my client stress, you can bet I was stressed too. When they succeeded, I felt like it was my victory too.

When you make your client’s problems your problems, you talk differently. Instead of “What are you going to do about X?” you say “how are we going to handle X?”

You don’t just think about how you’re going to get your technology to do the thing they asked. You question if it is really the right solution to their overarching business problem.

Thinking this way is also very effective in a sales context. I’ve found that by focusing on the problems our clients are trying to solve, rather than blubbering on out what our API can do, I make a lot more progress in figuring out how we can help them.

As we talk to larger and larger companies with bigger and badder data needs, I’ve found that they aren’t just looking for great technical solutions to their problems. They’re looking for partners to share the burdens, and rewards, on the path to reaching their goals.

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