In the wonderful African proverb, we are reminded that if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. In this week’s show, we’ll explore how to get the whole tribe to buy in to your Sales and Marketing plan and to join you on your journey.

Although the focus is on problem choice, the approach holds true for all decision making.

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Unless you are the 300 pound gorilla of your market, you can’t offer to solve all the market’s problems. If you do, the more nimble chimps will eat your lunch.

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Your ability to meet a need and solve a problem for the market will be tested and so case studies and references and testimonials will play a valid role. That’s very late in the journey, and it’s largely in the hands of sales people. Marketing’s job should be to find the right buyers, work out which of them is sufficiently troubled about the problem and to earn the right for sales people to get in front of those same buyers. Not all problems will serve you well. Some problems will actually be better solved by your competitors than by you, so marketing and sales together need to agree what problem to focus on. I’m going to show you how to choose the best problem between marketing and sales right now.

The first thing we have to acknowledge is that it’s a team game. If sales and marketing have a different concept of what the problem should be, the problem that we most want to focus in the market, it’s not such a good thing. Sales is talking about a different thing to what marketing is talking about, we have a different strategy going on, it’s not a good place. We really need marketing and sales, and frankly R&D and delivery folk, we need all of them to agree what problem we’re going to focus on. Out of all the options that we might consider, we need to think about strength and attractiveness differently. Let me frame it up this way. Imagine for the moment that you are equally amazing at solving all of the problems that you are right now considering to focus on. You are equally good. Which one of them would be more attractive? Separately, then we need to imagine that each of them is equally attractive, but which of them are we best at solving? These are very different things. Which would be most attractive? Which are we strongest at solving? In a perfect world we’re going to choose a problem that is adequately attractive and we are adequately strong at.

Why only one problem? Your sales people, when they get face to face with a prospective customer, they’ll honor the uniqueness of that customer’s problems. Which kinds of customers faced with which kinds of problems would you ideally want those sales people in front of in the first place? Each problem has a different set of buyers most likely to be troubled by it. Each problem has a different solution that would fully solve it. Each problem has a different channel best able to uncover and discuss that problem and frankly, each problem has a different sets of competitors or other ways, to solve the problem. In other words, every problem has a different strategy.

If you are a big company, then you can probably afford to have multiple strategies at play at any one point in time. Even then, at a plan level, the plan is to deliver the strategy so for each strategy, you are going to have a plan. Whether you are a large company with many strategies, each with their own plan, or you are a smaller company, where you can afford only one strategy executed really well, at a plan level, you still need have a plan to execute one strategy. One strategy means one problem. Marketing, sales, R&D, operations they all need to agree the one problem that you are going to focus on. Shortly I’ll show you how to do this in Funnel Plan. Before that I’m going to do two things. I’m going to share with you my conclusions and I’m going to invite you to receive other blogs like this. Let’s get to the conclusion first.

Start by considering all the factors that make each of the problems attractive. In the three day Funnel Camp we have a bit of time to wrestle this and so we look at five factors. For each problem that we are considering, we look at how big is that problem for the overall market? Are there lots of businesses? Is it a deep pain that they’ll a lot of money for, so the size of the prize, if you like? We look at growth. We look at concentration of competition. We look at profitability and we look at barriers to entry to determine whether that problem is going to be a protected one where it’s really hard to learn how to solve that problem.

In the shorter Funnel Mastery workshop, that’s just a one day workshop, we have a little less time and so we look just the issue of pain and which of those problems cause the most pain for the market. Either way, we are looking at, for each of the problems we are considering focusing on, how attractive would they be if we chose to focus on them? Secondly, we want to look at how good we are at solving each of those problems today. I know that in time you can become great at everything, but how good are you at each of those problems right now?

Again in the Funnel Camp we’ve got three days so we look at five factors. We look at how often you’ve solved the problem before. How much sort of share of the troubled market have you already earned? We look at your USP, the Unique Selling Proposition. How good are you at solving each of those problems? Maybe I’m little better at solving this problem than this problem. Thirdly, we look at whether the market recognizes that unique strength. Fourthly, we look at our cost advantages. Do we have a cost advantage at solving one problem over another? Finally, we look at references. Together they make up strength factors. In the one day Funnel Mastery workshop, where we have a little less time, we look just at the overall notion of strength rather than breaking it down that way. Either way, we are trying to determine how good are we today at solving each of those problems?

Based then on the attractiveness and our strength, we now want to make a decision between those options and to choose the one that would reward us most richly if we chose to focus on it. Avoid the temptation to look for an aggregated problem. You know, lots of commas, lots of “ands” does not a good problem make. We want a single problem that is tight, clear, definable, troubling and memorable that we can own in the market. A broad, encompassing problem is very hard to own. Get your team together, debate each of those factors however granularly you are going to have the debate, make a decision and then commit. Choosing the third best option but absolutely committing to it, is far better than choosing the best option and not committing fully. That’s why you need everybody together. Assess each of those strength and attractiveness factors then choose and commit. By the way, don’t let the numbers make the decision for you. The numbers or the assessments are there to inform your judgment. If we are going to rely on the science to make our decisions for us, the science better be perfect. It’s not. It’s really good science but it’s not perfect. In the end, you’re managers you have to make a debate, discussion, decision, commitment.

Well, if you enjoyed this blog then likely you will enjoy others. If you haven’t already, can I invite you to subscribe to receive this blog? Go to and either subscribe to the twice a week blog or, if you prefer, the once a month which has a recap of all the key blogs from the month. Frankly, what most people do is to subscribe to both and you are welcome to do that. If you prefer, you can also subscribe to the YouTube channel here and you can consume these blogs in that way. If you have already but you’ve got a colleague who hasn’t, then now would be a great time to invite them and I would be so grateful if you do that. Why don’t you do that now? Either subscribe or flick it along to a friend, come back and I’ll show you how we do that in Funnel Plan.

Ultimately, our objective is to get the team to agree the entire strategy, tactics and plan. Today’s focus is around the problem that underpins all of that. Let’s focus then on the problem choice and how we make that in the Funnel Plan.

Login in to Funnel Plan, choose the right plan. I’m going to login into my videos Funnel Plan. I hope you are loving the new user interface by the way. We’ve been working very hard on your behalf. Go in to blogging video and the section that I’m focused on right now is problem choice. Now that I’ve opened the plans up, of course I can produce a PDF of the plan, take a look at the objectives. Today I want to look at the problem. We’ve already gone into list problems. We did that last week. Last week we took a look at how you identify problems and how you create some basic input or some basic analysis to select which problems are worthy of focus. Once you’ve done that, and let’s say that I have perhaps chosen based on that initial analysis, not to focus on a couple of these. I’ll leave the other four for analysis. If I go to rate problems. This is where I can capture the inputs from multiple users. Now, I’ve already set this up, we’ve got Hugh as one of those users and another, clever name, as a second user.

Now of course we delete users, we can add users in to provide feedback. The beauty of this is that by capturing the input from multiple users, you can reflect the aggregate view of the team. Let’s put a new user in and for that new user we can now put in what we think that user thinks the size of the each of the opportunities is, relative to each other. They can put in how attractive they believe each of those problems would be as a focus area. This one is not so attractive and the next one perhaps a little more attractive and they can assess the strength, your strength, at solving each of those problems.

When we take a look at the problem choice, choose a problem. What this form will do is it will take in as much input as you’ve given it. If you haven’t done that ratings, so there it is again problems, go in to list, rate and choose. If you have not done ratings, then the values that’s going to show here, will be only from the list of problem section where we had those simple sliders. Let me show you again. We had these simple sliders. If you give it more information, it’s going to take the ratings information and consider that to be a little bit more robust, a little bit more complete. Then choose the problem section, what you see displayed here would be the values that reflect aggregate input from the team on size, attractiveness and strength. Based on that, I choose a problem from the above. It’s not always going to be the very first problem that you mention. It might end up being, perhaps, the second best problem. For some reasons that the analysis didn’t show, but later debate flushed out. Choose a problem and then make any notes that you need to remember how it is that you arrived at that decision so that you can capture that for posterity.

That’s it. We have created a list of problems, we have rated them, then we’ve captured multiple users input on that rating so that we can choose the best problem. Chosen it, captured our reasons why. At any point during that cycle, don’t forget to use the help. You bring it out simply by clicking the arrow and you will notice that the help centre is giving you context-sensitive help. It’s going to give you different help based on what you hover over. Make sure to use that help centre to remind yourself what’s meant by each of these functions. Then we produce the PDF. Here is our Funnel Plan with those inputs from the users.

On next week’s show, I’ll show you how we choose the right buyer based on their problem. If we have chosen a really good problem, then we really should be talking to buyers likely to have that problem. I’ll show you how to do that next week. For now, may your funnel be full and always flowing.