How Liz Taught Me About A Problem I Didn’t Know I Had

I went into Fit2Run to buy $5 sports nutrition but left with a $150 pair of sneakers.

Now here’s the thing, I didn’t have a problem with my “old” sneakers. No blisters. No aches. No pains in my feet. Nothing. I was happy. But with one question, Liz, the store associate, set off a chain of events that led to a sneaker purchase.

Here’s Liz:

“Josh have you ever had your running gate tested?”

Here’s Me:

“Why do I need that?”


“A gate test helps make sure you run injury free. The test determines if your gate is ‘neutral’ or ‘pronated’. The results determine what sneaker is best for your feet so that you don’t injure yourself.

I see that you’re wearing the Ghost 9’s. That’s an excellent sneaker for a neutral foot. In fact we sell it. But it might not be the best sneaker for your foot. Would you like to get tested just to make sure? Might give you peace of mind. The test takes about 45 seconds.”

Next thing I knew I was rolling up my jeans and running on a treadmill.

As Liz pointed out, if you look closely at my test below, you’ll notice that my left foot turns inward or pronates when it lands on the treadmill. Sneakers made specifically for feet that pronate provide additional support thus reducing injuries.

As an old Jewish guy, my number 1 reason for buying pretty much anything sports related is to reduce injuries (rather than to go faster). Liz found my motivator. She found a problem, taught me something I didn’t know and made the sale.

Liz “sold” the problem. With one question she illuminated a problem I didn’t know I had. And yet, most sales people jump into selling features and benefits without taking the time to answer the first question buyers have which is “why change?”

The Buyer’s Journey and the Guide’s Role

As illustrated in the graphic below, your job as a “seller” is to guide the buyer based on where they are in their journey. When deals stall it’s typically because you’re selling before the buyer is bought into why they might want to change.

The challenge is to determine where your prospect is in their buying journey so that you can have the appropriate conversation.

For example, here’s a conversation between a VP of Sales and a Sales Consultant aimed at answering the question “why change?”

Consultant: “So how many meetings does each sales person set each week?”

VP of Sales: “Two, which I think is pretty good.”

Consultant: “The Account Executives I work with typically set 7. Is that something you’d be open to learning about?”

VP of Sales: “Yes. How do you do that?”

Putting This All Together

If you’re selling to prospects who will have to switch from something to your “thing” pitching “these running sneakers are awesome” is inadequate. Pitching “you need running sneakers” makes no sense because your prospect already owns a product in your category. Rather, you must teach your prospect new information that allows them to answer the questions, “Why change?” and “Why change now?”

I read somewhere that 50% of deals end in no decision. If this is happening with your deals, you might have PPD. Premature Pitching Disorder is when you pitch before prospects are bought into why they might want to let go of the status quo. No compelling reason for change, no deal. You can loosen the status quo in two ways: (1) educate prospects on a problem they might not see coming or (2) show people “what’s possible”.

Here’s a “what possible” question:

Rep: How many meetings do each of your reps set each week?

Prospect: 2

Rep: illumination question — The reps I work with typically set 7. Is this something you’d like to learn more about?

If they say no. AWESOME, you’ve just disqualified them.

Here’s a question that educates a prospect on a problem they might not be aware of:

Rep — “John, I believe I understand the situation with your agency. Let me ask you though, have you considered what the impact will be to your business if you continue to generate leads only through referrals?”

Prospect: “Well . . . not exactly. What do you mean?”

One last thing . . .

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