Am I Truly a Problem Solver? Or am I Just Creating Pain? 5 Ways to Tell for Both Sales and Marketing

April 11th, 2013 by Matthew Rosenhaft Leave a reply »

Over the last few weeks, I have had numerous conversations with sales and marketing executives about solving problems. About ½ tell me that diagnosing problems is what they have always done. “Nothing new here, move along!”

My standard response is “maybe”. Good problem consultants are able to help people diagnose what underlying problem is the cause of symptomatic pain. Good enterprise consultative sales people know how to help organizations get to consensus as to what problem is really causing the various ills across the organization. True.

BUT, are you truly diagnosing their ills or are you guiding them to your solution? What is the difference? A good doctor is supposed to truly listen to the symptoms and diagnose the patient in front of them. They are not supposed to represent a drug company and just prescribe the “wonder” drug for everything.

  • Ever seen an IT project that completed just as the vendor promised, addressing some of the pains, but not solve the customer’s problems and creating a whole host of other pains?
  • Ever see a customer demo, go away for 6 months, and then come back and ask for a demo again? Same solution, but obviously they were still trying to figure out their underlying problem and whether the solution would address their ills.
  • Ever see a sale where they had multiple problems, only one of which you could solve?
  • Ever jointly sell with a strategic partner to create a larger solution?
  • Ever see similar size companies in the same industry have completely different needs, different buying process, and even different decision maker?

Sales and Marketing have completely different perspectives on diagnosing pain to underlying problems. It’s kind of a Goldilocks situation. Sales people seem to see the differences across opportunities while marketing sees the commonalities.  In truth, there is a middle – there are differences in every situation – the more complex the sale, the more configurations, customizations and decision makers, buying processes, requirements, etc.; but there are broader trends across those organizations – features, functionality, value proposition, etc. As a general rule, sales is too customized – they are supposed to be focused on the customer in front of them. Marketing is to generalized – they are supposed to be focused on generating market awareness and interest.

But, here is the problem with these approaches:

  • Sales and marketing have a hard time reconciling their differences. Try getting agreement on what is a good lead and how to follow up.
  • Salespeople rarely rave about marketing materials and how they helped close a sale.
  • Marketing rarely get the credit they deserve or recognition of how hard it is to satisfy everyone’s needs with their marketing materials. I got a 7% response rate on my last campaign. That was awesome. (If you have read my blog before, you know my opinion on a 7% response rate. What happened to theother 93% rejection rate that ignored your email or read it and rejected?)

In truth, both perspectives are right, but wrong. So, here is my take on it. Both are solution oriented. Both are wrong in their belief that they are problem solving. If you are really selling your solution and not opening up to really listening to your prospective buyer’s needs, but rather looking for pain to anchor your solution sale then you are not really problem solving. If you are trying to service different audiences with a generic message or you segment your website on product, you are not problem solving.

Here are my gotchas to think about:


  • What problem do you solve for whom? See my last post for clarification. If it takes 20 minutes of qualification, 3 client examples, and a lot of feature differentiation to explain what problem you solve. You are NOT really problem solving.
  • How do people refer you? Talk to Bob, he does XXXXX. If it is solution and not a defined problem, not problem solving. If it is Bob, who is a great guy, then you are not problem selling, but personal selling.
  • If your elevator pitch to introduce yourself starts with a description of your solution, benefits, or anything that involves a transaction with you; not problem solving.
  • If every deal has a different decision maker and every deal is “custom” for you, but your company sells a product or packaged service; something broke in the sales and marketing process. If everything is the exception versus the rule, something is broken.
  • Can you have a conversation with a prospective buyer without mentioning your product or solution? Can you help them come to the conclusion that they have a tangible problem that you solve, they have a sense of urgency around that problem, and that what they are doing today to bandaid the problem won’t actually solve the problem? Without mentioning your solution? Hint: “Agreement to the problem before introducing the solution, makes the medicine go down… makes the medicine go down” – sung to the tune from Mary Poppins.


  • If I read your website and don’t understand what problem(s) you solve and why they are solved differently; nope, not doing it.
  • If I go to your website and can’t tell what you do on the first page or worse see a laundry list of products or vertical “solutions” without a clear explanation of what problems that you solve, how are you helping me?
  • If I read your slick, creative agency designed site and get strong emotions, but don’t understand what you do; not even in the running. Hint: cloud is not a problem. It is at best a category, in reality, a buzzword. As a buddy in IT says, people who use “big data” don’t understand data. Not a problem either. “Big data” is short hand for large volumes of data which have very specific problems dependent upon what you are trying to do. Just saying….Marketing service industry is even worse with “We do branding”…. What does that mean? Brand identity…. I have been in marketing a long time and I don’t know what that really is. Is brand a result of good marketing or is it Harry Potter waving a magic, expensive wand. Poof, you are a brand. Poof, you are spending millions on marketing campaigns. Poof, your CMO is onto their next gig.
  • If your email marketing campaign is segmented based upon title, industry, and size of company. NOT solving a problem. No matter how eye catching your tagline is. Creative ain’t problem. Part of the problem. Painful. Not problem solving.
  • If your company description is well crafted to talk about your products and their “value” proposition to a generic audience or to position your company against larger competitors, then you are not going to be recognized for solving problems.

In short, you or your company is defined by what problem you solve. Whether you actually explain what problem that you solve or not. If you have a weak or non-existent explanation of what problem(s) that you solve, then your solution better be really good that your customers rave sufficiently to overcome your lack of explanation. They will fill in the blanks for you. OR not. If your customers cannot articulate what problem that you solved for them, how can someone who hasn’t bought?

What problem do you solve for whom? Simple question, but big problem.

Matthew Rosenhaft

Matthew is a Social Marketing Executive and is co-founder of Social Gastronomy, LLC and the Social Executive Council. Prior to founding Social Gastronomy, Matthew has over 18 years’ experience as an executive in marketing, product management, and sales. Matthew has an extensive background in the SaaS Software, Social Media, Mobile, IT Services, and Telecom industries. He has prior entrepreneurial experience as a founder and executive in several early-stage venture-backed technology companies, as well as, holds several US patents for a mobile marketing technology. Matthew is a prominent blogger and regular industry speaker on social marketing and strategy topics. Matthew’s blog can be found at For more information on Matthew, you can check out his LinkedIn profile at or contact him directly at