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What is Gap Selling and how does it Work?

Getting the customer to Yes

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Identifying the gap between what problems a prospect is struggling with, what solutions can help them overcome those challenges, and where they want to go once all the problems are solved is the key to making a sale.

Why? Because that’s how you can determine the communication methods, channels, and content that can help build trust with your prospect and influence their buying decision.

In this article, let’s learn about gap selling and tips to get started with it.

What is Gap Selling?

Gap selling is a type of selling methodology that focuses on discovering a customer’s current state and gradually moving them to their desired future state.

According to Keenan, sales expert and author of the bestselling book Gap Selling, “gap selling moves conversations to problem discussions, BEFORE any agreement on need is reached. There is little to no discussion on the product or its features until the current environmental problems have been identified, quantified, and the impact on the organization, department or functional group has been measured.” Only when current state problems and a desired future state are identified, the discussion moves to need and potential solutions.

Gap Selling vs. SPIN Selling

As said above, gap selling focuses on helping prospects get from where they are to where they want to be.

Meanwhile, SPIN selling guides sales reps to ask the right questions so that they can identify prospects’ challenges and build rapport with them.

Gap Selling vs. Challenger Sale

Gap selling and challenger sale are different sales methodologies.

Gap selling is best used when sales reps can take time to dig deep into the root cause of prospects’ problems. Then, determine if a product or service can help prospects achieve their future goals.

On the contrary, challenger sale is an approach where sales reps actively educate prospects about products, services, and ideas. They take control of a conversation and demonstrate their expertise and experiences. In doing so, they can position themselves as trusted advisors and deliver more tailored solutions.

Gap Selling vs. Solution Selling

Gap selling and solution selling can’t be used interchangeably because they’re not the same.

Think this way: gap selling is effective regardless of industry and business size. But for solution selling, it’s most commonly used by businesses selling highly customized products and services. The reason is that solution selling focuses on tailoring products to a prospect’s specific needs. It acknowledges that the buyer is highly informed and needs a solution that best fits their expectations.

Gap Selling Methodology Benefits

The critical benefit of gap selling is that it allows you to focus entirely on a customer instead of only talking about your product. Through discovery questions, you understand how the customer feels in the current state? Are they happy? Do they lack anything? What are they looking for? What do they want to achieve? What are the differences between their current situation and their desired future state?

“The bigger the gap, the greater motivation they have to buy, the more money they’ll pay, the more engaged they’ll be with you, and the higher probability you have of closing the deal. And that’s what gap selling is all about,” says Keenan on Sales Hacker.

Gap Selling Discovery Questions

To sell successfully with gap selling, you must know how to ask the right discovery questions.

Generally, discovery questions are the questions that help gather information from respondents. In gap selling, discovery questions allow you to uncover the current environment a customer is living in, e.g., their emotions, house, family, work, neighborhood.

There are three types of discovery questions in sale:

1. Probing Questions

Probing questions are meant for asking details on a particular matter as much as possible.

For example:

  • How would you describe the problem you’re facing?
  • What is working and what isn’t in your company?
  • What do you expect to achieve with new technology?

2. Provoking Questions

Provoking questions aim to challenge a customer’s current perspectives and thoughts. They get the customer thinking about their current situation or a matter in a way that they might not have thought of before.

For example:

  • Have you ever considered switching to […]?
  • What do you think about the motive behind […]
  • If […], what do you think […]?

3. Validating Questions

Validating questions are often closed-end questions to validate what you know about a customer or validate what the customer just said and your understanding of their points.

For example:

  • If I understand correctly,…
  • Just to confirm,…
  • Do you mean…

How to Start Gap Selling

Here are some steps to help you get started with gap selling:

1. Research your customers. Interview your customers and use the questions above to learn about them.

2. Collect customer data across channels to understand their purchase and engagement history with your business.

3. Organize, analyze, and calculate the gap. You may consider creating a gap selling problem identification chart to visualize what you discover. Remember, the bigger the gap, the greater the opportunity.


Gap Selling Example

Modern customers want a seamless buying experience across channels and at every stage of their journey with your business. From product discovery to newsletter signup to conversations with sales reps to service inquiries with support agents — customers want everything to be smooth and effortless.

How do you create that seamless buying experience? By understanding customers better and ensuring all your teams, especially sales, marketing, and customer service, have access to accurate, consistent data. You can make this happen by performing gap selling using revenue operations tools like Revenue Grid.

For example, Revenue Grid supports a sales dashboard with all information about stalled opportunities, previous events, and sent emails. You’ll learn which opportunity has no recent activities, which one is most likely to convert, and which one is unengaged at all. Using these insights, you can design proper discovery questions, making it easier for sales reps to start conversations with prospects.

Revenue Grid also equips you with tools like Deal Guidance and Pipeline Visibility, giving you clear visibility of the progress your teams are making throughout sales processes. You can also get a 360-degree view of your prospects’ engagement with your communications, access to previous activities, transcripts of meetings, etc. The deeper you dive into your customer’s data, the better you understand that person you’re trying to reach.

The best part is that you don’t need to collect and update data manually. Everything is automatically synchronized and consolidated in real-time with Revenue Grid.

Gap Selling Summary

Gap selling is a powerful sale technique to gather critical information about potential customers and sell the benefits of your product or service in a way that the customers can see positive impacts on their lives. If you haven’t tried this sales method, now is the perfect time to start.

Move to gap selling with Revenue Grid

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    Core UX Writer at Booking.com

    Lavender Nguyen is a Freelance Content Writer focusing on writing well-researched, data-driven content for B2B commerce, retail, marketing, and SaaS companies. Also known as an Email Marketing Specialist, she helps ecommerce B2C brands develop high-converting, customer-focused email strategies.