Overcoming Sales Challenges: A Buyer Focus on Seller Deficit Disorder

Originally Posted on Aug 5, 2014 on the Force Management blog.


Occasionally salespeople will sign up for the challenge of trying to sell me something. This doesn’t always end well, but is usually entertaining.

I’ve had a few recent experiences with SaaS software providers trying to sell to me and I found myself thinking about John Kaplan and his comments around Seller Deficit Disorder. (My colleague Brian Walsh did a great job of breaking down the Sales Leader Deficit Disorder in this post.) This common “ailment” encompasses two of the biggest complaints buyers have about sellers:

  1. You don’t understand my business.
  2. You don’t listen.

My recent experiences were at different stages of the buying process, which led me to realize that Seller Deficit Disorder evolves during the sales process. As buyers make their decisions, their perspective on these two complaints actually changes, depending on where they are in the buying process.

The typical progression for a buyer in their buying process is relatively simple:

  1. What are my Needs?
  2. What are my Choices?
  3. How do I mitigate Risk before buying?
  4. How do I ensure Success after buying?

When you consider the buying process, Seller Deficit Disorder progresses. It’s no longer simply, you don’t understand my business and you don’t listen. See the graphic below:



What drove me to think about Seller Deficit Disorder when I was being sold to? I received the following email, after I downloaded a whitepaper that was “needs-focused”:

I noticed you were on our website. Is there something specific you were looking for? Perhaps we can chat tomorrow at _____ to discuss your interest in ______

The lack of any reference to what Force Management does makes me assume the seller didn’t review our website or my LinkedIn profile. The follow-up email also didn’t address the “need” that prompted me to download the white paper in the first place. By tailoring even just one sentence, I wouldn’t be saying to myself that ‘he doesn’t understand our challenges.’

A wise seller will keep Seller Deficit Disorder in mind when communicating with customers and prospects throughout the entire buying process. A value-based selling approach focused on effective discovery, required capabilities and positive business outcomes is the ideal remedy to address this disorder.

What actions have you taken in your sales efforts to overcome buyer preconceptions?