“Gap Selling” Explained: What Is It and How Does It Work?

A salesperson’s role is to persuade prospects or clients but to do so effectively, that person must have the necessary knowledge. 

Because when it comes to selling, it’s more important to get in-depth knowledge about prospects before asking them questions and offering solutions. Isn’t it?

Before your sales reps start their sales pitch, they should possess the required details and insights about the issues the prospect is facing. So here comes the gap selling methodology.

Making a sale requires recognizing the prospect’s current situation, their desired outcome, and the cause of the gap between the two. Why? Because only then can your sales reps have a better chance of winning over a prospect’s trust before discussing your products or services.

Learn more about gap selling and how to get started with it in this post.

What Is Gap Selling?

The goal of the sales practice known as “gap selling” is to bridge the gap between a client’s present situation and their desired future state, as suggested by Keenan, the inventor of this framework. Gap selling vividly focuses on the issues and pain points of prospects. It differs significantly from tactics in which salespeople prioritize the product or service. 

Keenan stated that every sales rep must learn about the prospect before beginning to work on the deal. According to his framework, the three major components of the gap selling methodology are:

– Current state

The current state refers to a prospect’s physical and literal situation. What issues do they have, and how are they affecting their business? Finding out their current state to know them and their problems is what the sales team should do first.

Related: Sales Prospecting: How To Find Your Customer’s Pain Points?

– Future state

In the future, how do they want their processes to be? What will be the impact of solving the problem on their business? Finding out what solutions are available can get them to this state.

– The gap

How big is the gap between the current and future states? How can your offering fill the gap between these two states? Also, it’s necessary to determine the amount of cost in terms of time, cash, and labor.

In What Ways Does Gap Selling Work?

Gap selling can be a straightforward approach that demands dedication, an understanding of prospect psychology, and proper sales training. 

Below are the steps of how gap selling works.

1. Gain an in-depth understanding of your prospect

Gap selling necessitates salespeople to have a detailed understanding of their prospects, similar to any other sales tactic. 

Salespeople can use the ideal customer profile (ICP) and buyer personas as a framework to direct them as they learn additional specifics about the prospects.

2. Utilize a Problem Identification Chart

Keenan advises making a Problem Identification Chart, an excellent gap-selling tool. The chart lists the various issues your product or service can address, their effects, and, if known, their underlying causes. This chart will be made before a sales rep contacts a prospect.

3. Get familiar with the prospect’s current state

In this step, the sales representative’s task is to learn as much as possible about the prospect’s current state. Successful sales professionals ask probing questions during a call. For instance,

  • What is their actual situation?
  • What kind of business procedures do they use?
  • What difficulties are they facing?
  • What strategies are they currently using to address those challenges?
  • Why are they suddenly seeking a solution?

Salespeople should not mention the product or service to avoid appearing pushy. Instead, the prospect and their issue are the focus of this phase.

4. Identify the root causes of the existing problems

In this step, sales reps need to delve deeper once they know the exact physical structure of how the prospect’s business is currently operating (or, more likely, failing). They should probe the prospects’ issues and ascertain their significance by asking them questions like,

  • How does the issue affect the bottom line?
  • What are the repercussions each time it happens?

Ask inquisitive follow-up inquiries. It’s best if the reps can get the prospect to say as much as possible in their own words.

5. Understand your prospect’s expected future state

Once their problems have been resolved, most clients are eager to discuss how they want things to appear. First, ask about the emotions that underlie their desired outcome. Future state inquiries include, for instance:

  • What goals do you hope to accomplish?
  • How do you determine success?
  • What would your business gain from solving the problem?

Your reps should find out why the prospects mention an outcome they’d like to see. It determines what matters most to them.

6. Discover the prospect’s decision criteria

It’s necessary to have a solid grasp of how a prospect makes the final purchasing decision before a sales representative offers a solution. 

For example, what criteria are the prospect’s top priorities? Who needs to approve the purchase? 

Questions like these make the messaging more effective if reps comprehend their prospects’ decision criteria. In this stage, validating questions is extremely helpful to validate the prospect’s final “yes” to hearing your reps’ offering. 

7. Bring your solution to the table and close the gap

In this last step, your salesperson has all the required information to position the solution as the best choice. 

Here are a few need-to-know aspects for your salespeople when they make the sales pitch that bridges the gap.

  • Limit yourself to a few selected features despite knowing your product or service has a pool of stunning features. For instance, talk about five to six elements that fit better to meet the needs and preferences of the prospect.

  • By anchoring your prospects in your solution, you can encourage them to take action. Ask questions like, “Can you see how [feature] can assist you with solving [problem]?” after demonstrating a feature. The prospect gets a picture of a promising future state.

  • Emphasize how your product can help clients resolve business problems, not technical ones. 

For new sales representatives in gap selling, one of the best pieces of advice is to listen more and talk less; that is what top sellers do. 

That’s all about what gap selling is and how it works. In short, understanding the issues your product addresses is the key to successful gap selling. Most of the time, prospects are unsure of the problems they resolve. Therefore, sales reps must make a problem identification chart. The better they understand a prospect’s business problem, the sooner they can close a deal.


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