Jonathan Farrington

Article Summary:

Our ability to solve customer’s problems, ultimately determines our success.

Successful Selling Is Problem Solving

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

For “foolish consistency” read “dull routine”. Routine – doing things by habit, subconsciously, without thinking – is the enemy of success.

The human mind is a computer. You programme your computer by the input you feed into it: learning, knowledge, experience and so on. If you programme your mind with images of failure, you will fail. If you build a bank of success images, your computer will direct you to success.

How do you build and input images of success into your computer?

By creativity…by thinking.

The fruit of thinking is knowledge; and knowledge is the medium from which skills are built.

In skills learning, there are four steps:

Step One:The Unconscious Incompetent.
They don’t know that they don’t know. The salesperson that is making mistakes, but is not aware of them.

Step Two: The Conscious Incompetent.
They know that they don’t know. This is the beginning of wisdom. The salesperson that is aware they are not cashing in on their full potential and wants to learn how to improve.

Step Three: The Conscious Competent.
They have learned and are aware of what they have learned – and they use it! They know why! The salesperson who knows how to make a successful approach call and can programme and execute their presentation to achieve their objectives.

Step Four: The Unconscious Competent.
They have learned so well that they use their knowledge with a semi-automatic skill. Their skills have reached a level where they are no longer self-centred. They are free to devote their efforts to the needs of others. The professional salesperson who does the right things to get results, but functions without conscious attention to what they are dong or why.

Note that I say semi-automatic. Even the Unconscious Competent should have the ability and the sharpness to call forth self-awareness.

Purposeful self-awareness, plus a knowing application of skill, generates maximum personal horsepower.

The handmaiden of creativity is Imagination. Imagination is the well that brings forth the new ideas that are essential to your growing success.

Brainstorming is the way to keep imagination active, fresh and alive.

These are the rules of brainstorming new ideas:

  • Quantity: Numbers; the more ideas, the greater percentage of success

  • No criticism: Don’t pre-judge any idea until you have a basketful to pick from. This is the key. Judgment tends to inhibit imagination

  • Free-wheeling: Don’t reject an idea because it is unusual or “off the wall”
  • Combinations: Combine ideas and see what kind of offspring they produce.

Only after you’ve exhausted all possible ideas do you start the process of selecting and evaluating.

The aim of creativity is problem solving. That’s the essence of successful selling.

The foremost function of the mind is problem solving, we solve problems with our imagination and imagination is a function of our creative ability. A creative salesperson is a problem-solver.

The basics of the selling process:

  • Determine desire

  • Present the product to satisfy desire

  • Help the prospect find the right reasons for a favourable decision.

Selling is nothing more than an exercise in problem solving. By constantly keeping your imagination and creativity at work, you will develop the best attitude for problem solving. You will build an unending source of ideas. You will become an idea producer and this will be your source of “value add” that will differentiate you from your competitor.

Differentiate Between Activity and Accomplishment
Activity relates to being busy but accomplishment equates to getting meaningful things done. It takes energy to fail. The successful salesperson channels their energy into creative, productive channels leading to pre-defined goals.

Accomplishment is measured by the amount of creativity involved.

And Finally, Value Added Asks…
“What service or benefit can I add to what I give my customer, other than my product?”

Not just service in the sense of speedy delivery, prompt follow-up and personal attention, which are normal adjuncts of any real sale…but a real plus idea, something extra of value to him beyond the immediate transaction…that goes beyond the nine dots of your job…

Value Add, through idea giving, is the ingredient that earns you the right to ask for the order, and to expect it!

Jonathan Farrington is a globally recognized business coach, mentor, author and consultant, who has guided hundreds of companies and thousands of individuals around the world towards optimum performance levels. Formerly Jonathan was the Managing Partner of The jfa Group which he founded in 1994. Now he is the Chairman of The Sales Corporation and CEO of Top Sales Associates. Full details are available on Jonathan’s website at

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