A Solution-Selling Parable

“Hi, Doctor,”  I said from my perch on the examination table.  The unfamiliar physician entered the small room wearing a traditional white coat, carrying a clipboard, and scribbling something indecipherable on a pad of white paper.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Bristow,” he replied with a smile.  “My name is Doctor Kildare and I’m here to help,”  he said, tearing a sheet from the stack with a flourish.  “Here’s your prescription.”

For a moment, I thought Dr. Kildare had confused me with another patient.  “My prescription?” I asked puzzled.

“Yes, your prescription…that is why we’re having this meeting, right?” he said with a slight chuckle. 

“Hmmm, I guess so,” I said.  “It’s just that we’ve never actually met and you haven’t even examined me.  We haven’t discussed the symptoms I’m having or the pain I’m experiencing.  How exactly do you know what to prescribe?”

“Oh, well, this medicine I’m prescribing is the best on the market.  I have prescribed it for many other patients, and I’m sure it will help solve whatever problems you have,”  he said with great conviction. 

Sensing my confusion and disbelief, Dr. Kildare cleared his throat, furrowed his brow into a serious “doctor look” and continued, “The medicine comes in five different flavors, is packaged in a nice reusable bottle, and, it’s a really pretty color if you hold it up to the light…see.”

Perplexed and struggling to respond, I said,  “That is a really nice bottle.  And Pomegranate Passion is certainly a creative flavor for medicine.  But, I’m just not sure it’s what I need.  Is this stuff, whatever it is, expensive?”  

“Truthfully, it costs a little more than other medicines, but, believe me, it’s WORTH it.  And, if you buy it today, I’ll even throw in an extra 20% more free for first-time patients.”

Getting a great deal on something that couldn’t really solve my problem was not appealing.  The few things I had learned about the medicine–flavors, bottles, etc.–weren’t really important to me.  I’d prefer a prescription for something that would clearly address my specific needs.  In fact, I’d happily pay more for such an effective solution.  I’d heard enough.

“Well, let me think about it more before I commit,” I said, sliding off the edge of the table, crackling the long white paper serving as a sterile barrier.  “Do you have a business card and perhaps some literature?  I’ll get back with you later.”

With a downtrodden countenance, Dr. Kildare reached deep into the front pocket of his white coat and pulled out a business card.  From a shelf over the stainless steel sink behind him, he produced a glossy brochure describing the medicine’s plethora of flavor options and the benefits of its multi-use packaging. 

This medicine may be fantastic, but because the doctor failed to diagnose my pain points and illustrate how the solution would address these specifically, I wanted no part of it.  I am not one-size-fits-all.  I was off to another doctor who would take the time to delve into my problems and present a tailored approach to relieve my pain.

Now that’s what the doctor ordered.



One comment on “A Solution-Selling Parable

  1. Amen! Too many salespeople leap to product before they understand the buyer’s real need. I wrote about this extensively, and provided some tools for proper diagnosis, on our Solution Selling blog here: http://www.solutionsellingblog.com/home/2009/7/6/solution-selling-essentials-diagnosing-buyer-pain.html
    Good luck and good selling!

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