A Complete Guide to the Gap Selling Framework
Most sales methodologies focus on convincing prospects that your solution is the key to a brighter future.
The problem with this is that the prospect may not understand why they’re experiencing a problem — much less how to solve it. In many cases, they may not even know what the ideal solution should look like.
Gap selling takes problem-solving to the next level. It’s not just about sellers working through the process of uncovering pain points and identifying solutions.
The seller’s goal is to bridge the gap between the prospect’s current state (where they are right now) and their ideal future state (where they want to be – assuming they’ve solved the problem).
In this guide, we’ll explain the concept of gap selling in more detail, break down the framework, and share some tips for implementing the strategy in your own sales organization.
What is Gap Selling?
Gap Selling was created by sales coach Keenan (yes, just the one name), who wrote the book, Gap Selling: Getting the Customer to Yes and now runs a sales consulting firm and B2B sales training program built on the methodology.
It’s a problem-centric methodology where sellers go deep into the discovery process to understand the full scope of a prospect’s problems and pain points and work with them to identify the gap between their current state and the ideal future state.
From there, all interactions focus on closing the gap by diagnosing problems and presenting solutions.
The current state represents where things are right now. Here, sellers focus on understanding the prospect’s business environment, the problems and challenges they’re dealing with, and the impact of those problems on the business—and on the prospect’s emotional state.
It’s important to note that gap selling dives deep into the discovery process. So, you’re going beyond basic pain points and trying to uncover the root cause of the pain.
Once you’ve gathered enough information about the current state, you can start discussing the future state. The future state represents the ideal outcome. In other words, where would the prospect’s company be if they solved the problem?
What kind of environment does the prospect want to create? What kind of impact will solving the problem have on the business and how will it affect the prospect emotionally?
Here, the goal is to determine what needs to happen in order to get the prospect to that ideal future state. In some cases, it might also involve helping prospects define the ideal outcome before assessing possible solutions.
The gap represents the distance between the current and the future state. Your goal is to determine how much of a difference exists between the two states and whether or not the gap is wide enough to justify an investment in your product or service.
How much will it cost to make the change? What kind of effort is involved? And are those costs even worth it? The bigger the gap, the easier it’ll be to prove the value of making that change.
Keenan says the discovery process should happen within the first 25% of the sales process. The reason is that without this information, you can’t know what the buyer’s goals are, what challenges they’re up against, or what their decision criteria are based on.
Without that information, you can’t influence the deal or create the kind of urgency that drives action.
How to put together a winning Gap Selling strategy
While Gap Selling operates on a relatively simple framework, mastering the strategy isn’t easy.
Keenan says the methodology boosts sales by changing everything sellers thought they knew about relationship-building, objection handling, pricing, and closing deals.
In many cases, reps must unlearn old habits — like selling features or making assumptions about the prospect’s ideal solution — and embrace a more collaborative, problem-focused approach to buyer interactions instead.
Below, we’ve outlined some best practices for putting this strategy to work.
Maintain a problem-centric mentality throughout the sales process
The Gap Selling methodology is similar to methodologies like Customer-Centric Selling and Challenger Selling, which also focus on identifying problems and solutions that deliver the most value to buyers.
With that said, Gap Selling takes on a different approach.
In Challenger Sales, reps do their own research to identify problems and opportunities before presenting them to buyers — often in a way that challenges them. Gap Selling is a collaborative, empathetic process, which, like Customer-Centric Selling, allows the buyer to take the lead.
What makes this process unique is that discovery spans the entire sales process.
Reps need to stay in problem-centric mode during the entire sales process and constantly look for new ways to deliver value to the customer.
Gap Sellers need to invest in becoming experts in their prospects’ industries and really understand the opportunities and challenges that come with the territory. It’s also about being an empathetic, active listener.
This approach requires reps to analyze all of these different data points so they can connect the dots and find new solutions.
Your goal is always about helping customers understand their problems and figure out a solution.
It’s also about keeping an eye on the future. So, even after that initial deal closes, reps need to keep a pulse on new developments in the industry and look for cross-selling and upselling opportunities that solve future problems.
Ultimately, staying in problem-centric mode allows you to discover the information you need to cut through the noise and close gaps the buyer may not even know about.
Ask the right questions
Gap selling begins with some serious information gathering. Initially, your goal is to define the three elements we’ve mentioned above — current state, future state, and the gap.
The best way to gather this information, of course, is to ask the right questions.
Note that the types of questions to ask (as well as the content of those questions) depend on the situation. With that said, your questions need to be very specific and aimed at uncovering the following information:
- Facts about the situation
- The problem
- The impact of the problem
- Emotional responses to the problem
- Root causes
- The ideal future state
- Possible solutions
Here are some examples of questions you might ask to understand the current state, future state, and the gap.
Current state questions:
- If you had to change something about your current technology, what would you change?
- What are the biggest shortcomings of your current solution?
- What features do you like most about your current solution?
- How confident are you that you’ll hit X goal by next quarter?
- What is your business environment like?
- How many users have access to X solution?
- What activities or processes do they use X solution for?
Future state questions:
- What changes would you like to see and why?
- What is your plan for making the change?
- What steps do you plan on taking?
- What would solving X problem mean for your team?
- What would you be able to accomplish with extra time/resources/better reporting?
Questions to ask yourself:
- Why is achieving X goal so critical to the prospect’s business?
- Why does X goal matter so much to the prospect on a personal level?
- What is the catalyst driving this change?
- What specific business drivers are at play?
Questions to ask the prospect:
- What have you done to solve the problem so far?
- Are you or your team committed to taking action?
- If not, what needs to happen so you can move forward?
- When do you need to see results?
- How will you measure success?
We’ve put together a list of Gap Selling questions you can share with your team.
Calculating the gap
Locking down the “win” is all about your ability to expose gaps and help customers see problems they may not have seen before.
As mentioned, the bigger the gap, the greater the opportunity. The stakes are higher because prospects stand to gain more from making the change and more to lose by not taking action.
Exposing the gap and creating a compelling narrative that moves the deal forward points back to the discovery process.
But beyond asking questions like the ones we’ve just outlined, you’ll also want to dig deeper to uncover the “why.”
Why is a specific process so inefficient? Why is the company losing money? What exactly do they hope to gain by adopting your solution?
Finding the answers to these questions will help you move deals forward.
Use Weflow to implement Gap Selling
Weflow's note-taking and note templates features allow you to implement Gap Selling with ease, as well as ensure your sales team adheres to it. Sales managers can create custom note templates with Weflow, and then assign them to different team members or sales teams for use.
Here's how to create a Gap Selling note template in Weflow that your team can reuse with prospects:
Log in to Weflow and navigate to the Notes section. From here, click the Use template button in the upper right corner of the screen.
Click the +New template button in the window that pops up.
Now, enter a name for your note template (e.g., Gap Selling) and fill out the note section with steps you'd like reps to take and the questions you'd like them to ask each prospect (see the questions we outlined above).
Once you're done, click on Use template.
Keenan is upfront about the fact that Gap Selling is hard.
You have to understand the problems your buyers are up against and the impact, urgency, and pain they cause.
And while this may sound like a pretty straightforward sales methodology, it requires sellers to break up with long-standing habits and embrace a new, problem-centric mentality.
The Complete Guide to Sales Qualification
Learn everything you need to know about qualifying leads in our handy guide to sales qualification.
Conceptual Selling: What You Need to Know
Learn how to use conceptual selling to improve sales efficiency and build better customer relationships.
Baseline Selling Explained: What You Need to Know
Find out what Baseline Selling is and how you can get started.
Your Guide to Target Account Selling
Target account selling fills your sales funnel with high-value leads. Here's how to get started.
CHAMP Sales Explained (incl. 23 Qualification Question Examples)
Learn what the CHAMP sales methodology is and how to get started using it.
Question-Based Selling: Everything You Need to Know
Check out our guide to get started with question-based selling.
Strategic Selling Process: What it Is, How to Use It & Examples
Strategic Selling builds long-term relationships with the entire company — not just one contact. Here’s how to use it.
Value Selling Framework: What it Is and How to Use It
Everything you need to know about value selling frameworks, how they work & how to create your own. FREE questions PDF.
A Complete Guide to the Gap Selling Framework
Everything you need to know to get started with the Gap Selling framework.