Gap Selling: The Most Customer-Centric Selling Method

by | 29 Jan 24

This blog is focusing on helping you boost your confidence in selling, whether you’re:

  • A salesperson trying to close deals or
  • A Customer Success person feeling a bit nervous about selling

I’ll be sharing 3 tips that I’ve learned from a book called Gap Selling. These tips have been super effective for me, and I’ve also refined them along the way.

Gap Selling is hands down the most customer-centric selling method I’ve ever come across, and as someone who’s not a natural seller myself, it has made a massive impact.

Oh, and here’s an important warning, make sure to apply these tips before even thinking about doing a product demo. It’s important that you figure out if you can truly help your customer.

Let’s get started!

Table of Contents

Use these links to jump straight to the part of the article that interests you most.

> Tip 1: Identify the Gap
> Tip 2: Listen and Learn
> Tip 3: Don’t Sell (Yet!)
> Now, Book The Demo
> What If You Don’t Find The Gap?

Tip 1: Identify the Gap

So, imagine the ‘gap’ as the problem you help your customers solve. It’s the space between where your customers are now and where they want to be. This gap represents the challenges they face and the unfulfilled needs they have.

To figure out if your customers actually have this problem, you’ll need to ask some thought-provoking questions that help you gain insights into their pain points. By understanding their current situation and if the current situation causes any issues, you can determine if a gap even exists and how your product or service can bridge it effectively.

Here are a few example questions to help identify if the problem exists. Let’s pretend that you sell a product that checks for the security issues in software code that your developers create. Here’s some example questions:

  • How do your developers check for insecurities in the code they commit to the live product?
  • Is there ever a problem in that process?
  • What happens when a problem is found?
  • When a problem like this happens what impact does it have on you all internally?
  • And what impact does it have externally, with customers?
  • What work is currently happening to solve this?

A word of warning: if you find that they don’t have the problem, or the problem exists but it doesn’t have enough negative impact on their organisation, then it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to sell your product to them.

In this case, you can disengage (see the section below on how to disengage and keep the door open for another day, ‘What If You Don’t Find The Gap?’).

Tip 2: Listen and Learn

If you’ve identified a gap between their current situation and their desired outcome, it means you’ve discovered a problem that you can help solve. This problem is significant enough to warrant seeking a solution.

Now, it’s important to ask thought-provoking questions and actively listen to gain a deep understanding of their current challenges. These questions should uncover the additional problems that arise if the gap isn’t closed. Consider the personal and organisational impact of these problems.

So some example questions would be:

  • How does the current problem affect your team’s productivity and efficiency?
  • Have there been any specific instances where this issue has led to significant setbacks or delays? Could you share an example?
  • What measures have you tried in the past to address this issue and how successful were they?
  • Does this problem impact your customer satisfaction levels or customer retention rates? How so?
  • How is this issue affecting your bottom line? Can you quantify the financial impact?
  • If the problem continues unabated, what do you foresee as the long-term implications for your business?
  • How does this issue affect your personal workday?
  • Does it create additional stress or workload?

These types of questions will help you dive deeper into the impact of the problem, giving you valuable insights and helping your customer recognise the urgency and value of finding a solution that really works.

Remember, the goal is to listen carefully to their responses and fully understand their perspective.

Oh, and here’s another word of warning: please don’t just copy and paste these example questions or even prepare a list in advance! Your questions shouldn’t be a checklist. Instead, think on your feet and ask follow-up questions based on what they’ve shared.

This section of the blog is called ‘Listen and Learn’ for a reason – you should do more listening and less talking. Start with an opening question and then keep asking related questions based on their answers.

Using a predefined list of questions won’t be effective; you need to identify the gap and continue asking questions that are directly related to what they’ve shared.

Tip 3: Don’t Sell (Yet!)

It’s important to position your product not as an item to be sold (at this point anyway), but as the bridge that closes the gap. So ask your customers questions about how solving this problem would improve the company’s processes, technology, finances, people and also their own personal work-life.

When asking these questions, you can be more direct than the questions used to identify and dig deep into the problem you’ve found. So, you can simply ask:

  • How would it affect you personally if this problem was solved?
  • How would this affect the people in other teams?
  • And what about the business as a whole?
  • What positive impact would it have financially?
  • Etc etc

By doing this you will get the customer to really think about how a solution will help all aspects of their organisation.

Now, Book The Demo

Now, and only now, are you fully prepared to schedule a demo!

This is really important: keep in mind that during the demo, when you’re showing off your amazing features, you should focus on addressing the problems you have identified, and how your features solve those problems and close the gap between where they are now and where they want to be!

This is definitely the shortest section in any of my blog posts, ever! Maybe a blog on how to run a great demo is one fore the future!?

What If You Don’t Find The Gap?

It’s simple, really. If you find that they don’t have a problem you can solve, or even if they do have that problem but the gap between where they are now and where they want to be isn’t big enough to spend money on solving it, then you have no sale.

But here’s what’s amazing about Gap Selling. It means that you’re always – and I mean always – selling only when you can genuinely make an impact on your customers!

So, what do you do if you can’t sell to them?

Well, the first thing – and this should always be top of your mind – is to be 100% honest with the customer. Let them know that your product won’t help them with their current priorities. Then, quickly explain what problems your product does solve and give a short example of the positive impact it has had on one of your other customers.

Thank them for their time and let them know that it’s been really interesting to learn more about their organisation.

Keep in touch with them through social media. Connect with them on LinkedIn or X (Twitter) or wherever they are active. Post regularly about the problems you solve. This way, you stay in their mind as the go-to person when that problem arises.

This disengagement tactic isn’t just to be polite. It lets the customer know exactly what you do. So, when and if they ever have the problem you solve and they need a solution… guess who they’ll call?

That’s right, they’ll call you!

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