You Say Problematize I Spell Trouble

Sometimes when you hear a word new to you, you are startled.

Especially when it’s the kind of portmanteau so obviously coined by a new generation.

And so this hit me when I heard someone, without any hint of irony, casually drop into conversation the word “problematise”.

I simply had to look this up.

Being English born and bred, my first gripe was that the internet only seemed to recognise it with a “z”. A battle all -ise endings seem rapidly losing.

The term itself appears a thoroughly modern confection. (One with this fascinating year 2000 forum among academics discussing its jargonistic relevance.)

Specifically relating to whether an issue or situation is considered important or irritating enough to warrant a solution.

If something is now deemed worthy of a ‘fix’, then you’ve duly ‘problematized’ it.

This is a scenario ripe among solution sales.

Many potential clients can trudge along without recourse to our wares. Whether happily or disgruntled, they can still perform their business despite existence of a glitch we can smooth.

Our task here being to ‘create the need’.

I often hear sales leaders state that prospects have ‘the problem’ but don’t know they have it.

So how do you get them to acknowledge it? Let alone act to resolve it…

I was reminded in part of Jill Konrath’s three buying phases. And how a mismatch in where you and your buyer are in them means no sell.

That the issue doesn’t emerge as a standalone project can be down to many reasons. A frequent three being because the affected does not realise the true cost of it continuing, is unaware of up- or down-stream heavy impact, and is blissfully ignorant that it can now be remedied.

Even though I’m not averse to the odd spot of ‘wallowing‘, I’m not typically in favour of talking to prospects in the language of ‘problems’.

Whereas we, like medical doctors, may wish to identify, “where’s the pain?”, we can hit barriers with such a direct question. Finding out “what’s the aim?” can prove softer and more fruitful.

Some buyers though, won’t be bothered by such lingual niceties.

I can imagine using this new-found knowledge with a prospect. Likewise, how they prioritise (trusted classic), project-ise and resource-ize its resolution.

In whichever way you broach the topic, you need a way of uncovering how and when the possible buyer, and to what extent, problematised what we make better.

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