Leveraging the 3-idea rule to convert complaints to solutions

Salespeople often raise problems with their sales managers that require fixing.  There is more than one way to “fix”problems and one way is more effective than the other.
Here are two approaches for this problem-fix type discussion:
Approach 1 – Some salespeople raise problems with their sales managers with the conversation culminating in the salesperson simply “tossing the ball” to the sales manager. 
This approach can be viewed in a couple of ways.  Some may see the salesperson as seeking help.  On the other hand, some may view this as the salesperson simply raising a complaint or as the old poker expression goes “passing the buck.”  Regardless of the point of view, the salesperson is looking to the sales manager to solve the problem but providing no insight into possible solutions.
Approach 2 
With this approach, when a salesperson raises a problem with a sales manager, it is accompanied by three ideas for solving it – the 3-idea rule.  By using the 3-idea rule, the salesperson is not ceding responsibility for solving the problem and the sales manager is not accepting the total responsibility for solving it.
What are the benefits of following 3-idea rule? Offhand, there are three:
§  The salesperson maintains “ownership” of the problem and therefore is ultimately responsible for solving it.  The sales manager provides assistance in thinking through the problem, generating options, and providing parameters for deciding what works best.  This appears to us to be putting the responsibility where it belongs and it helps the salesperson to learn how to handle future problems.

§  This method avoids simply complaining – “if all you bring me is a problem, then it’s just you complaining to me.”  Sales managers usually have 10 or so sales reps reporting to them.   Imagine the difference in the sales manager’s day if all 10 sales reps used Approach 2 vs. Approach 1 – talk about having a better day.
§  By bringing 3 ideas to the table, the likelihood increases that the solution the salesperson and sales manager identify is better than if the salesperson simply relied on a sales manager for the solution.  Plus, by advocating the 3-idea rule, the sales manager helps the salesperson to “think through options.”
Building a productive relationship between sales managers and their teams is a big deal.  One step in that journey is creating a set of expectations that can provide a roadmap for the trip.  This 3-idea rule is just one small step in the right direction.
If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

Mel - 

Whether you are a Sales Manager or the Sales Person, I suggest that the three idea rule be put in place in your sales activity.  It will work as recommended.  However in the software field the three idea concept goes much deeper and it may do the same in your industry.

A client wants our software to have a new feature.  If I simply bring the idea and leave it on a developer’s desk it will set right there until the next millennium.  By spending some time beforehand I will have 3 or more alternative ways that this new feature could be done simply.  I never give up when the first “can’t be done”, is dropped onto the idea.

 Instead of being blown off with the self serving “That is not how it’s done!”  I will continue to broach the topic from different view-points emphasizing that this could be done simply. It takes some getting chutzpa to be a speck in management’s soup, but sometimes new ideas have to be sold.   Remember that management is schooled and trained in the ways of making something simple Very Complex.  If we made that change, in the way that we do this one thing, the world would stop spinning and we would fly off into space. 

So whether you are using the three ideas to solve a customer problem or selling a new idea to your management team,  Give it try, because it works!

Sales Pro Edumacation