As a professional salesperson we have one job and one job only – find a problem to be solved and then sell the solution.

A common reference in the sales world is to sell the hole in the wood, not the nail – and for good reason.

There is a significant amount of money left on the table by salespeople that feel as though they need to sell based on the details of their product or service.

But that’s not actually what is going to get the deal over the line.

It’s not because of the features of their product aren’t great, nor is it because their product or service isn’t different enough.

It’s because people don’t necessarily care about buying the ‘thing’. They care far more over and above what the ‘thing’ can give them.

They don’t want a meat pie, they want their problem of hunger to be solved.

They don’t want a new car, they want to conserve the physical energy and time it takes to walk everywhere.

They don’t want to hire a business coach or consultant, they want their specific problem solved through the use of a strategy or system that provides the solution.

Our buyers are never as interested in how they get there as we think they are – just as long as they get there.

Just as long as the problem is solved.

So if we know that we have the solution to their problem, the question doesn’t revolve around how to sell the solution – it revolves around how to create the problem.

And if that’s the case then what is a ‘problem’ actually constructed of?

The answer lies in a concept known as ‘cognitive dissonance’ – or the idea that a problem exists when we are aware of where we currently are and also aware of where we want to be.

This means that the only way we know a problem, gap or void exists to fill is if we know or suspect there is a better way to be, have or do than we are currently being, having or doing.

Now, ready for the kicker? Because we can take this one level deeper…

Both where we are currently and where we want to be have two components – a logical component and an emotional component.

So where we are currently, we can describe in both emotional terms and logical terms. The same goes for where we want to be down the line.

With me so far?


So in order to create the problem (by creating ‘cognitive dissonance’) we need to have our ideal buyer language out loud where they are currently at emotionally and logically, and where they want to be both emotionally and logically.

It is at this point that cognitive dissonance will have been created and we can present the solution to the problem they now realise they have.

The words they use to describe both their logical and emotional situations are quite clear for the trained ear:

If they are accessing the logical component of their situation they will use words that describe things external to them; descriptions and analyses of statistics, ‘how the team is performing’, what their numbers are looking like, projected revenues etc.

If they are accessing the emotional component of their situation they will typically go more internal and talk about themselves and how they are feeling.

So overall it goes something like this:

Current state: “We’re currently working with a team of 5, doing revenue of around $40K a month and you know what I’m just absolutely exhausted!”

Logic (5 people, $40K, tick!) and emotion (I’m feeling exhausted, tick!)

Desired state: “And if we could build the systems in place to allow for 2 extra salespeople and bring in an extra $25K, well I tell you what that would make this a far more enjoyable experience!”

Logic (2 more people, $25K, tick!) and emotional (enjoyable experience, tick!)

That gap in the middle my friends, is the cognitive dissonance we need in order to show our buyers they have a problem.

Too many sales professionals focus on only aiming to achieve either the logical or emotional component of the dialogue from their buyer and wonder why the deals slip through when they ‘just seemed to be such a slam dunk last time we spoke’.

Quit the shortcuts, you need both.

Become a master of creating cognitive dissonance and your persuasive abilities become accessible in any conversation you please.

And your sales numbers simply must rise because once your buyer has languaged their problem, all you have to do is stand in the space between where they are and where they want to be and ask one simple question:

“Ok, sounds like we’ve got a problem to be solved. How can I help?”

Darcy J Smyth is the creator and lead trainer of the Tonal Persuasion Method for Sales – a methodology designed to help you close sales without having to revert back to the Hard Sell that turns so many away in the modern business landscape – and become a persuasion master instead.


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