Think about the last time you prepared for a sales demo.
You’ve already gone over your product’s key benefits with your team several times. Your materials are ready, and everything is laid out just how you like it.
And then – it happens!
Prospects have no idea why they are experiencing a problem, let alone how to solve it. In many cases, they don't even know the ideal solution.
Sure, your presentation does a decent job explaining what your product does, but it doesn't take a deep dive into what they're experiencing, how they feel about it, and why they need a solution.
Result? Low conversion rates. The problem exists in figuring out their problems and why they need a solution.
How can you bridge the gap between your prospect's current and future stages?
That's where gap selling comes in!
It’s about helping your prospect move from where they are now to where they want (and need) to be.
In this article, we'll break down the basics of gap selling, how it differs from traditional sales techniques and how you can use it to generate more leads and close more deals.
Let's start with a quick definition.
What Does Gap Means?
A gap is a distance between where your prospect's business is today and where it will be in the future. In other words, the difference between the two states pushes your prospects to see value in adopting your product or service.
What is the Gap Selling Methodology?
Gap selling is a problem-centric methodology, where the seller focuses on understanding a prospect’s problems and helping them to identify gaps between their current state ("how are you doing now?") and an ideal future state (e.g., "what would your business look like if it were thriving in this area… ?").
When you can identify these gaps, all interactions with clients start to focus on solving problems, not selling the product. Gap selling is not a product selling methodology but rather an approach to problem-solving and customer engagement.
Gap selling was pioneered by Keenan, a sales coach/influencer who wrote the book Gap Selling: Getting the Customer to Yes. According to him,
“Trumpeting feature benefits that may or may not be of value to your customer will not get you closer to the sale. Mentioning your place on the Fortune 500 will not get you any closer to the sale. In fact, every time you talk about yourself, you risk triggering that change-resistant, emotionally fraught thoughts and feelings in your customers.”
Thus, understanding the root causes of your prospect’s problem and helping them solve those with your product matters more than the features available on your product. Gap selling focuses on what the customer wants rather than what you want. It’s about creating value for your customers and working with them to solve their problems.
Let's understand gap selling by taking a closer look at its layers.
A current state is a snapshot of where your client or prospect currently stands. Your goal is to help options see the current state objectively, so they can make better decisions about where to go next.
If you can't identify this, they'll never buy from you. To understand their current state, ask questions like
- What's working well for your business right now?
- What are some of your challenges in this area?
- How is this affecting them emotionally and psychologically?
The answers will provide insight into what needs to change and how it can happen.
As gap selling is problem-centric rather than product-centric, your goal is to identify the root cause of the prospect’s problems in this current situation. So, try asking questions that reveal their struggles and pains in the current situation.
After you've established a clear picture of the current state, it's time to highlight the future state. The best way to do this is by asking questions like
- What would happen if you were able to solve this problem?
- How would your life change?
- What would be different?
- And what emotions would come along with that change?
By asking these questions, you can get a clearer picture of what the prospect wants. This is crucial because it allows you to position your product as something that will fulfill their desires and solve their problems in this future state.
The huge difference between the current and future states is what we call "the gap." This gap is what you're going to fill with your product or service.
By focusing on this gap and asking questions about it, you can identify your prospect's specific needs and how they will benefit from your solution.
When you know where your audience is and how far they may be from reaching their goals, it will be easier to persuade them that change is necessary.
This helps you to position your product as the solution that will bring them to their desired future.
Key Benefits of Gap Selling
For B2B businesses that sell solutions to complex problems, gap selling can be a good fit. It is particularly effective for sales scenarios that often require a certain level of customization to the offer—such as software deals, in which features may or may not be included depending on customer preferences.
When you master gap selling, you can reap numerous benefits, like,
1. Improved sales performance
As 70% of consumers make purchasing decisions to solve problems, gap selling can effectively present your product as the solution. If you can pinpoint a customer’s need and offer a product that meets that need efficiently and cost-effectively, this will likely increase sales performance.
2. Better relationship management
Gap selling is a technique that relies on credibility rather than friendly rapport, making it an excellent strategy for salespeople who want to be seen as experts in their industry.
As gap selling allows you to develop a problem-centric approach, you can also use it to establish a healthy relationship with your prospects.
3. Improved customer satisfaction
One of the biggest benefits of gap selling is increased customer satisfaction. This is because you can focus on identifying a customer’s needs and matching them with an appropriate solution rather than simply trying to sell your product or service.
Gap selling focuses on the customer, not just their product or service. This way of thinking mirrors buyers' inner journey as they decide what products to buy—so it fits well with how many companies approach sales internally.
4. Improved sales effectiveness
It’s not just the customer who benefits from gap selling—you do too. By identifying a prospect’s needs, you can create a more effective sales demo.
This is because you can tailor your pitch to each customer's wants and needs rather than simply pushing your product or service onto them.
5. Increased forecasts and revenue
The more you know about your customer's needs, the better off you are. Gap selling gives you insight into what they're looking for and how to deliver on it—so when it comes time to make a sale, you have a better idea of how to make it happen. This means you can make more accurate forecasts and increase revenue over time.
6. Shorter sales cycle
If your prospect understands the problem they are having, and how you can solve it, they will be more likely to buy from you quickly. You will also have less back-and-forth with the prospects to close the sale faster.
Comparing Gap Selling with Other Methodologies
Like many salespeople, you may wonder, "why should I use gap selling instead of one of the other popular sales methodologies out there? Or "What's the difference between them, and how does your approach fit into my overall strategy?".
The reason is simple: Gap selling differs from many other sales methods because it focuses on the buyer’s needs rather than what you can offer. While you may have been trained to answer a prospect's questions with canned responses and rehearsed pitches, gap selling requires that you listen carefully to what they are saying.
To understand this better, let's compare gap selling with other best-selling methods,
1. Gap selling Vs. Challenger sale
Unlike challenger sales, gap selling is collaborative and empathetic.
The Challenger approach requires reps to stay in a discovery mode throughout the sales process. They're always looking for new ways of delivering value and controlling conversations helps them build trust with prospects by differentiating their offering from competitors.
It is most effective in B2B sales environments, where the rep can influence the discussion to lead a customer toward purchasing.
Gap selling is more collaborative, and the rep needs to build a rapport with their prospect. It's about empathizing with the buyer and understanding what they want before selling them anything.
2. Gap selling Vs. SPIN selling
The S.P.I.N selling is a simple way to structure your sales pitch by focusing on the following four areas: situation, problem, implication, and need a payoff. This methodology focuses on sales reps building a rapport with their clients and learning about the obstacles they face.
The key difference between S.P.I.N and gap selling is that the latter form focuses heavily on identifying a customer's problem and its possible solution. Instead of explicitly telling prospects about a product or service, SPIN selling guides them to these realizations, making the pitch more natural and persuasive.
3. Gap selling Vs. solution selling
Gap selling focuses on the problem, whereas solution selling focuses on the need.
A solution-based selling approach is one in which the salesperson identifies a need or problem, then suggests how their product provides a better solution than competitors.
A solution seller will address the root of a problem, but this approach neglects the perception of need. And because they sell products based on what customers feel they want rather than analyzing their problems and needs—they risk selling to people who won't get value out of their product or service.
4. Gap selling Vs. consultative selling
Consultative selling is a dialogue-based approach focusing on understanding a customer’s needs and providing appropriate solutions.
Gap selling is a more problem-based approach where the salesperson identifies the gap between where the customer is today and where they want to be. They then help the customer bridge that gap by providing solutions and options for achieving their goals.
Gap Selling Examples
Let's see real-time examples of how brands leverage the gap-selling approach to create customer value.
Toplyne’s platform makes it easy for sales reps to identify and target the companies that are most likely to buy their products, freeing up time to spend more time with customers who have already expressed interest.
They used product demos to show the value of their platform and then used gap selling to help potential customers understand how they could use Toplyne to improve their sales process.
They showed how their product helps sales reps save time, identify companies that need their services, and understand how Toplyne can help them grow revenue. By using this gap-selling method, Toplyne was able to generate 2X the revenue from their sales.
Wingman is a conversion intelligence platform that helps you understand your sales interactions to boost conversions. It provides sales teams with a clear view of their pipeline status and insights about what leads are likely to convert.
To educate their prospects about the value of Wingman, they introduced a product demo. It interacts with the user and gives them an experience of what it’s like to use the tool.
It also helps sales reps understand how they can leverage Wingman to improve their conversations with prospects, so they can make informed decisions about whether or not someone is likely to purchase. They used gap selling to identify what their prospects needed and then showed them how Wingman could help fill that gap.
Gap selling with Storylane
The backbone of gap selling is to use the gap between the customer’s current situation and their desired outcome to build trust, gain influence, and create urgency.
To do this, you have to understand their current and future state with curated questions. When you find the difference, it will be easy to explain how your product or service can fill this gap and help your customer achieve their desired outcome.
And Storylane helps you achieve the same. It enables you to create an interactive product demo that shows how your product can solve its problems in the current stage and how its business will change if they use your product.
With Storylane, creating interactive product demos is simple. It's a no-code platform with a simple interface loaded with features—creating interactive content couldn't be easier!
When your prospect can get a feel for how your product can help them, they're more likely to engage with you. And when they're engaged, they'll be more likely to buy. Storylane enables you to create and communicate the same.