A businessman paced the floor of his bedroom one night, unable to sleep.

“Darling, what’s bothering you?” his wife asked.

“We have a huge loan payment due tomorrow. I just hate to face the bank manager and tell him we don’t have the money to pay him.”

The wife picked up the phone and called the bank manager at home. “About that loan payment tomorrow – my husband doesn’t have the money.”

As she hung up, her husband exploded: “Why’d you do that?”

“Well dear,” she said, “now it’s his problem. So you can come to bed.”

Whose problem is it, anyway?
When you let others – even customers – toss you their problems, you’re playing Hot Potato: If you don’t toss them right back, you’ll get burned.

Sure, it’s your job to help solve your customer’s problems. But that doesn’t mean owning their problems. After all, you have enough problems of your own – like meeting sales goals.

Here are some problems customers would love to lob your way: 

  • “We just don’t have that kind of money in the budget.”
  • “I can’t approve a purchase that size.”
  • “I need overnight delivery, but I don’t want to pay extra for it.”

Those are your buyer’s problems. You don’t set their budgets, authorize their purchases or make their schedules. And often these aren’t even problems at all.

They’re negotiating tools to wring concessions from you.

For example, if the prospect says he can’t approve anything over a certain amount, you’ll be tempted to cut prices to seal the deal. But the problem isn’t your price. It’s your prospect’s chain of command. So if you want to help, help the customer get that authorization:

You: “Who has the authority to exceed that limit?”

Prospect: “Oh, it would take a vice president to authorize that.”

You: “Well, you want to do it, don’t you? Why don’t you call the VP and see if he will okay it?”

It takes a keen eye to see when a buyer is tossing you a problem that doesn’t belong to you. And it takes courage to toss it back.

1 Comment

  • Tom Rochford says:

    Thanks, you’re correct that too often we assume their conditioned response means no, or worse, maybe. As you point out the key is to understand the customer as well as possible so that you’re prepared to respond when they tell you about “their problem”.
    Relationships do matter!

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