To Win More Deals, Lead with Problems Not Solutions. Here’s Why.

In the modern marketplace, the average person sees roughly 5,000 ads every single day. That’s almost 2 million ads per year, all enticing would-be customers with the promise of value.

Most of these are ignored. Some might raise an eyebrow. Fewer still spark legitimate interest in the minds of buyers.

That’s a huge problem for companies trying to fill their revenue pipelines with high-potential buyers. It’s also one that gets worse with each passing year as a seemingly endless supply of new products and services floods the market. For example, in the marketing technology space alone, the number of products has increased by a jaw-dropping 9304% since 2011! That’s a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 41.8% in the move from 150 to 14106 solution options.

Unfortunately, in an attempt to stand out in a sea of sameness, all too often salespeople resort to pitches that:

  • Overload their customers with product or technical information
  • Parrot high-level value propositions that lack clarity or differentiation
  • Fail to manifest the confidence and conviction their customers crave.


The Three Things Your Pitch Needs to Do

In a market where customers struggle with unprecedented solution choices, razor-tight budgets, and infinite distractions, your sales pitch needs to do three things:

1. Engage

The purpose of your pitch is NOT to immediately convert buyers. It’s to get them to lean in and say, “That’s interesting. Tell me more!” That means your narrative doesn’t have to convey the entirety of your value proposition. Rather, like the newspaper headline, it simply needs to entice customers to continue the dialogue.

2. Assess

Your solution isn’t a fit for everyone. Yet so many sales teams waste their limited bandwidth trying to convince and convert even low-potential buyers! That’s why your pitch should help your audience self-select in or out of your sales process. Helping customers quickly assess whether your solution is for them benefits both parties when time and attention are precious commodities.

3. Remember

According to Gartner, six to 10 decision makers are typically involved in the purchase of a complex B2B solution. That means there’s a high likelihood that the person you just pitched your solution to will have to explain it to someone else. If your pitch violated one of the three sins I outlined earlier, it won’t be memorable enough to work its way through your customer’s organization while maintaining its armor-piercing efficiency.


In my training, I cover many powerful, scientifically proven ways that salespeople can pitch their solutions. From unleashing hidden enemies to priming the conversation with questions, and even formulaic storytelling. But regardless of the modality, one of the core, underlying principles behind the most effective pitches remains the same; they lead with problems, not solutions.


The Power of Problems

In Sell The Way You Buy, I share research that illustrates how feelings are the primary motivator behind all our purchasing decisions. And because humans are biologically programmed to elevate the importance of threats in our environment, feelings of pain and loss catalyzed by problems not only represent a powerful message delivery mechanism but can elevate the sense of urgency to act on those feelings.

Feelings also operate on a faster neural pathway than thoughts, bypassing the more extensive cognitive processing that solution and benefit-related messages go through.

To experience how solution/benefit and problem-related pitches differ, consider how two types of pitch narratives for a similar product would sound:


Solution/benefit: We’re an AI-driven personal shopping platform for men.

Problem: We help men who love to dress well but hate to shop.


Solution/benefit: I help busy executives get in the best shape of their lives.

Problem: I help busy executives lose 10 pounds in 60 days after everything they’ve tried has failed.


Solution/benefit: Earn 6-figures, working 10 hours a week, from anywhere in the world.

Problem: If you’re struggling to create the business of your dreams because you’re afraid of leaving your corporate job and don’t know how to find your first 10 clients I can help.


Solution/benefit: We connect busy entrepreneurs with qualified virtual assistants to take on repetitive tasks and give them more time back in their day.

Problem: We work with entrepreneurs on the verge of burnout who know they need to delegate tasks but have no idea where to start.


Solution/benefit: We provide world-class sales training that will help your reps deliver 2X the revenue with pinpoint forecast accuracy

Problem: We help sales teams struggling through the most challenging market in recent history overcome three major problems:

    1. Their sales reps are losing deals because they can’t manifest enough confidence and conviction to engage senior buyers
    2. The tactics that used to work (like crafting an air-tight business case) are no longer enough to win business
    3. Most of the training and enablement they get is focused on process and products (i.e. the “what”) instead of the soft skills they need to break through (i.e. the “how”)

(I went for extra credit on that one 😉)

Feel the difference?


Running problem statements through the filter of the three main goals of your pitch further reinforces their value.


1. Engage: People spend so much time and emotional energy lamenting their problems. If you can describe those problems better than they can, their assumption that you understand the solution with equal clarity will compel them to lean in.

2. Assess: With the problem clearly established, it’s easy for buyers to assess whether or not it’s relevant, resonates, and that they’re interested in solving it.

3. Remember: Customers will have a far easier time communicating the value of your solution to other people within their organization when it’s framed as a solution to a shared problem (e.g. “Hey Les! Remember how we’ve been struggling with ABC?!? Well this company reached out who specializes in…”).


So the next time you’re looking to break through the sea of sameness and have your pitch not only heard but deeply felt by your target audience, ditch the solutions and benefits, and lead with problems instead.

PS – Did you find this approach helpful and want to learn more like it? Or maybe that last problem statement hit home 😉 Check out the popular Cerebral Selling Sales Academy training program!

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