Premature Proposal Syndrome: How to Solve This Common Mistake

Many salespeople suffer from Premature Proposal Syndrome (PPS), which I call an involuntary reaction to propose a solution as soon as they hear a problem.

Inexperienced or shortsighted salespeople often jump at the first problem they hear to provide a solution. But, this practice can lead to small deals or no deals at all by not understanding the full scope of the problem or opportunity the prospect is facing.

Salespeople who suffer from PPS should understand what to do when the alarm starts to go off in their head when they hear a prospect problem that they think they can solve. It’s definitely not to start selling! Instead, sales managers should share these tips with their salespeople and learn more about how ProSales Connection provides services that meet your sales team’s needs.

What’s Wrong With Selling When You Hear a Problem?

The biggest problem with starting to sell prematurely is you will never know what other or larger problems the prospect is facing.

Now, you’ve put yourself in selling mode after the first problem you hear. So, you have limited the scope of your potential solution by grabbing the first thing you heard.

The prospect could have 3-4 other needs that your solution could solve. How will you identify these additional needs if you start selling at the first sign of a problem you think you can solve?

Or, the prospect may have only hit the tip of the iceberg with the first problem they identified in the phone call. There could be an even greater need below the surface that could lead to a broader or larger sale.

The other problem you have created for yourself by selling prematurely is weakening the full business case for your solution by only addressing the first challenge you heard.

The more you know about the impact this problem is having on your prospect’s business the stronger the business case you can make for choosing your solution. Maybe other departments are facing the same issue. Maybe there are other solutions you can bring to bear for the client that will increase the ROI for the prospect. But, because the salesperson only offered a solution to the first problem they heard, the sales team is not in a position to expand the scope of the solution.

Now, your company is faced with the possibility of losing the opportunity because your business case has been weakened by not being able to address the greater need.

What Should You Do Instead of Starting to Sell?

The key for salespeople is to make the business case for your solution stronger by following these important steps:

1. Instead of pitching a solution at the first problem you hear, you should stop and make a note of what you heard. Then, ask the prospect at least three follow-up questions.

This will lead to a deeper conversation about the issues or challenges that the company is facing. It’s also important to ask open-ended questions during the follow-up portion of the call:

  • How are other people in the organization impacted by this problem?
  • How long has this problem been an issue?
  • What other problems like this is your organization facing?

2. A great salesperson will keep the prospect talking about the problems or opportunities the company is facing. This will provide greater context for why they need your solution.

3. Now, you can broaden the scope of your solution to sell bigger, wider, and to more parts of the organization. This would not be possible if you grasped at the first problem you heard to start selling.

The Importance of Not Selling Prematurely at the Next Step

Now that you have established a broad scope for your solution, you are prepared to have a successful discovery meeting. But, salespeople still fall into the trap of proposing the solution too early in a discovery meeting.

The best practice is to resist selling until the last portion of the meeting. So, if you schedule an hourlong discovery meeting, wait until the last 15 minutes to present a potential solution or make the business case for how you can meet the company’s needs.

Salespeople who develop the discipline and patience to hold off proposing a solution will generate more sales. Why is this important?

  • You took time to listen to the prospect to get a better grasp of their company’s needs.
  • You conveyed that you care about understanding the company’s challenges and priorities, making them more receptive to your solution.
  • You will build repeat business or referral opportunities.

What often happens is salespeople panic when the prospect demands to immediately jump to questions about your product or solution. My experience is that those prospects are unlikely to buy anyways, or they are unlikely to maintain relationships after the initial sale. Your job is to slow them down, stick to the discovery process, and wait to recommend a solution.

You would rather sell to a prospect who is willing to wait to hear about your solution. These are the individuals you can build repeat business with because they are looking to establish a working relationship. If you listen and ask informed questions before pitching your solution, you increase the chances of completing this sale and future sales.

A premature proposal at any stage of the sales process could be detrimental to your company. This comes from years of experience and knowledge about common mistakes that salespeople make when trying to make a sale.

To learn more about what separates ProSales Connection, consider taking advantage of our limited-time opportunity to hire our firm on a no-risk basis. To learn more about the No-Risk Appointment Setting Program, contact me directly to have a conversation about how ProSales Connection can help your sales organization grow.

Mike Faherty

Mike Faherty is the Founder & CEO of ProSales Connection, a sales and marketing firm based in Houston, Texas. ProSales Connection specializes in helping B2B and technology companies grow through sales appointment setting and outsourced inside sales programs.

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