Features | December 07, 2021
Client Tips from the Pros: Be a Better Problem Solver
Sometimes this business feels like a giant Jenga game. Every day, it seems like you’re one block away from the whole infrastructure toppling.
Though supply chain woes have us all somewhat shaken, one really crucial aspect to keep in mind about our complex world of supply and demand: Stability is a rare and treasured luxury.
Because we work in a world of bespoke solutions crafted for unique problems. Every order is custom. Every project is complex. Every client is unique. And with this much diversity at play, things are bound to be problematic.
Someone once told me that easily 50% of your income would be based on solving problems. In other words, if there were no problems, someone could pay you half of what you make. Extrapolate this and apply it to our clients: If it were easy to source, easy to find, easy to design, easy to deliver, they wouldn’t need you. Or, at least, they wouldn’t need to pay a premium for your service.
Today, we’re sharing how to handle yourself when handling problems. Here are six ways to be when solving problems.
1. Always keep the lifetime value of the client in mind. Some projects are small, some are large. Some problems are minor, others are major. Your relationship with the client is built through an accumulation of all of these projects, big and small. Yes, the more high-profile a project is for a client, the riskier it gets, but remember that your relationship is about consistently creating solutions. Not only do you need to be aware of the project’s value when sizing up solutions, but the client’s annual and lifetime value as well. Knowing the weight of your customer’s value helps when assessing problems.
2. Your boss doesn’t have the answer. Bespoke and custom-tailored products mean bespoke and custom problems. No one really knows the textbook solution to every situational hazard in this business and you likely won’t cross the same problem twice. If your boss looks at you blankly as you define a supply chain problem, it’s because she doesn’t have the answer either — they hired you to find it. Rely on your team, but remember that the more complex problems you solve, the more your value grows both in the eyes of your team and your clients.
3. Be transparent, but circumspect with details. Your client doesn’t need all the details, but they do value transparency. And here’s what I wish someone would have told me early in my sales career: It’s much easier to communicate directly what’s happening on a project than to hide behind platitudes that conceal the details. It’s an old adage, but it’s much, much easier to rely on the truth and communicate it clearly. And speaking of …
4. Communicate quickly and consistently. There are two reactions to problems. One is panic through avoidance: relying too much on a miracle response from a supplier or waiting too long for what you know is likely bad news and therefore sitting on the problem. The other is situational preparedness — or, what we call in this game, the art of “constantly considering alternatives.” Problem resolution in this business means constantly seeking adaptive ideas. With deadlines at risk, if you wait too long, you’ll miss your window of opportunity. A pro in this business keeps their head on a swivel, constantly looking to the left and the right to find alternative solutions while also frequently communicating with clients.
5. Failure is an opportunity. Sales is a strategy of risk. There’s always something at stake on a project. And it’s not just the risk of a missed deadline. It’s the risk of our equilibrium, the risk of losing money, the risk of our sanity (temporarily). Remember that risk has its reward. We risk taking a big project with tight deadlines because we know that the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward. Work is “robust vulnerability,” wrote the author David Whyte, so by its very nature, our work is vulnerable. Keep in mind that you are not defined by your latest failed project and every failure is an opportunity to learn.
6. Grace under pressure is a learned and vital skill. Very few of us arrive on planet earth equipped with the equilibrium to handle anything and everything. As a salesperson, you learn that solving problems becomes your superpower. You also learn that your supply chain partners (suppliers) are every bit as important as your clients so, working professionally, politely and empathetically toward solutions goes a long way. Seth Godin wrote that “difficult problems require emotional labor, approaches that feel risky and methods that might not work. They reward patience, nuance, and guts.”
You learn something new in this business every day, which is why we all love this business.It’s constantly fluid, moving, shifting, evolving. And though we rarely encounter the same problem twice, you can rest assured that you are building up an amazing skill at handling problems. Progress in this business is not merely measured in dollars but in maturity. The more we learn, the more we earn.
This article was originally published on the commonsku blog and made available through a reciprocal content partnership. Want to receive more helpful articles and tips on how to grow a thriving promotional products business? Subscribe to their blog and they’ll deliver weekly ideas straight to your inbox! commonsku is an effortless business management platform that empowers you to process more orders and handle more business. Learn more at commonsku.com.
Business/Growth Strategies Company Culture commonsku