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Gap Selling: Everything You Need To Know

Gap Selling

Selling has always been a complex endeavor, requiring an in-depth understanding of the product and the market. Over the years, various sales methodologies have emerged, each with its unique approach. 

However, few have offered as robust a perspective on the buyer’s viewpoint as Gap Selling. Authored by Keenan, “Gap Selling: Getting the Customer to Yes” introduces a problem-centric approach to sales that has significantly impacted the market. 

As is commonly understood in sales, it’s not about what you’re selling but about what the buyer is purchasing. This blog posts shares the essence of this transformative methodology.

What is Gap Selling

Gap selling methodology focuses on identifying the ‘Gap’ in your buyer’s business, products, or processes, aiming to bridge this gap with beneficial solutions. 

The ‘Gap’ is the obstacle preventing your clients from transitioning from their current state to their desired state. Identifying this ‘Gap’ is crucial, as clients may not recognize an issue until its impact on their business is elucidated. 

At its essence, Gap Selling is predicated on the idea that sales are driven not by the product but by the underlying problem. 

This fundamental understanding can revolutionize an organization’s approach to sales, pivoting towards solution selling.

There are three main stages in Gap Selling:

  1. Current State: The first step in Gap Selling is to understand the buyer’s ‘Current State.’ This involves identifying where they stand, including their challenges and pain points. A comprehensive understanding is critical for crafting an effective sales proposal. Engaging the buyer with probing and validating questions is essential to uncover their current processes, product operations, and customer service challenges.
  1. Future State: This stage involves identifying the buyer’s ‘Future State’—where they aim to be, such as achieving their business goals and exceeding objectives within a certain period. It’s the buyer’s ideal scenario, where problems are solved, productivity is increased, and efficiency is enhanced, leading to business growth.
  1. Gap: The ‘Gap’ is the difference between the buyer’s current and desired future state. Identifying the gap allows the sales team to offer solutions that effectively bridge it. The focus shifts towards problem identification and its impact, leading to strategic planning and the search for appropriate product or service solutions to reduce the gap and align the buyer with their future state. The size of the gap represents the magnitude of the opportunity for the sales team.

Gap Selling Discovery Questions

In the Gap Selling framework, crafting the right questions is fundamental to understanding both the current and desired future states of your potential clients.

As a seller, you aim to ask questions that guide your prospects to self-identify the issues they are facing, rather than pointing them out yourself. 

This approach empowers the prospect to reassess their situation and establishes your role as an advisor rather than just another sales representative.

However, discovery questions in Gap Selling cannot be templated or standardized due to the uniqueness of each client. 

Personalized questions are necessary to explore five key areas: Environment, Type of Problem, Impact of the Problem, Root Cause of the Problem, and the Prospect’s Emotional State.

  • Environment: Ask about the current state of the prospect’s business and the market conditions or forces influencing their situation. Start with broad probing questions to contextualize the issues.
  • Type of Problem: Identify whether issues like declining conversion rates, long production lead times, high staff turnover, or others are present. Name the central issue and formulate provoking questions to explore it further.
  • Impact of the Problem: Quantify how the problem tangibly affects their business. Does it result in lost sales, decreased market share, or negative customer experiences? Use specific numbers or metrics to underscore the urgency.
  • Root Cause: Investigate what the prospect believes is causing the problem. This focuses the conversation on their perception of the issue and its persistence.
  • Prospect’s Emotional State: Recognize that your questioning may elicit feelings of disappointment, frustration, or anxiety in the prospect. Reflect these emotions back to them to demonstrate understanding.

There are no one-size-fits-all questions in Gap Selling; each sales team must uncover the unique challenges of their clients. Some example questions to illustrate the approach include:

Question: “Walk me through a typical day for your sales team, from start to finish. What activities are they focused on?”
Purpose: This initiates a discussion on their daily routines and the problems they encounter, providing insights into potential areas for improvement.

Question: “What are the most common complaints or frustrations you hear from your customers?”
Purpose: This question aims to identify mismatches between customer expectations and the prospect’s offerings, as well as emotional pain points.

Question: “What percentage of leads convert into closed deals? How has this conversion rate changed over the past 6 months or a year?”
Purpose: Focuses on identifying potential declines in conversion rates, using actual data to highlight gaps over time.

Question: “What were your revenue or market expansion goals last year, and how many of those goals were achieved?”
Purpose: Investigate the prospect’s strategic planning and goal achievement, identifying gaps between objectives and outcomes.

The key is to tailor questions to the prospect’s specific industry, business model, and goals. By addressing these framing elements—environment, problem, impact, root cause, and emotion—you can uncover the most pressing gaps that your solution can address.

In a YouTube video, Keenan introduces a technique called ‘Stripping‘ for devising discovery questions in Gap Selling. 

He emphasizes the importance for salespeople to delve beneath the surface in their discovery process, urging them to challenge the buyer’s satisfaction by asking questions related to their product and assessing their level of satisfaction.

He uses the example of a man who claims to be happy in his marriage to illustrate how to probe further into the current state. Keenan suggests posing questions that confirm the happiness in the marriage, such as ‘As a happily married man, how often do you take your wife on dates?’ and ‘When was the last time you surprised each other?’

This approach helps the buyer reassess their level of satisfaction and reevaluate their situation. The essence of ‘Stripping’ is to counter with questions that don’t directly inquire if the customer is content or facing business problems but rather to uncover their true comfort level. 

This revelation from the customer lays the groundwork for creating customized solutions, bridging the gap, and facilitating the transition from their current state to their desired future state.

Benefits of the Gap Selling Methodology

Adopting the Gap Selling strategy within your sales organization can revolutionize how you qualify leads and the solutions on which you close deals. 

This approach is distinct from other sales techniques like SPIN selling and Challenger sales, which focus on selling an existing product. Gap Selling, instead, hinges on identifying the ‘Gap’ before any product is sold, leading to the offering of customized products and solutions. 

Businesses incapable of providing customization may not fully leverage Gap Selling. However, businesses that can offer customized solutions will find Gap Selling particularly advantageous, as it delivers several benefits:

  1. Problem-centric Sales

Gap Selling shifts focus from a product-centric to a problem-centric approach, allowing sales representatives to concentrate on understanding the buyer’s needs and then matching the company’s resources to those needs. The buyer predominantly leads the conversation, with sellers listening and identifying gaps.

  1. Competitive Differentiation

Gap Selling positions you as a consultative guide rather than just another salesperson. Asking insightful discovery questions demonstrates your commitment to understanding the gaps in their business and proposing solutions.

  1. Creating Credibility

By identifying the buyer’s problem (Gap) and presenting a solution to bridge it, Gap Selling fosters relationships based on credibility rather than just likability.

  1. Shorter Sales Cycles

One significant advantage of Gap Selling is the potential to shorten sales cycles considerably. Discovery questions uncover true needs and challenges faster, and presenting your solution as the answer to specific gaps resonates more quickly with prospects.

  1. Higher Average Selling Price and Increased Revenue

Focusing on resolving the buyer’s issues allows salespeople to position their customized product or service as a premium solution, potentially leading to higher average selling prices and increased revenue.

  1. Less Time Wasted on Fruitless Deals

The Gap Selling process enables salespeople to quickly identify deals unlikely to close, allowing them to allocate their resources to more promising opportunities. This enhances sales efficiency.

  1. Better Forecasting

Understanding a buyer’s current and future states improves forecasting accuracy. A lead that has progressed to the gap analysis stage is more likely to convert, enabling more confident forecasting.

Summary of Gap Selling

Gap Selling is centered on identifying pain points, quantifying them, and demonstrating how your solution addresses these issues. It advocates for a problem-centric approach throughout the sales process and encourages the exploration of new ways to provide value to customers. 

This methodology directs sales discussions toward problem-solving before any sales agreement is reached. Gap Selling is particularly suited to sales scenarios that require customization, offering a strategic advantage in such contexts.

Thank you for reading our content. If you’re looking to enhance your sales team’s efficiency with contextual guidance and AI assistance, consider checking out our sales enablement tool, Featurewave.

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