“What’s the problem?”

Today, I hung a print in my living room. An hour later, I moved it to a different wall. Now I had a pair of holes to patch in the sheetrock.

No big deal. That’s what Home Depot and the local Oregon equivalent of a Home Depot are for. I bought in a paint sample, and while they mixed up a color-matched quart, I went to find a paintbrush.

I don’t know a lot about paintbrushes (and there are a lot of paintbrushes), so I asked a department clerk for some help. In fifteen minutes, I learned more about paintbrushes than I imagined there was to know:

  • How to use paintbrushes
  • How to clean paintbrushes
  • How to really clean paintbrushes
  • How handle-grip and brush-feel impacts brush preference
  • The difference between high-quality and low-quality brushes
  • The importance of brush technique when painting a wall or trim
  • How amateurs (like me) use brushes and how professionals use brushes
  • The benefits of buying a paintbrush for life vs. buying a use-and-dispose brush

It was amazingly educational. That’s not even half of the paintbrush tips that I learned. (This might not be coming across in text, but I sincerely mean that this clerk wowed me. They were a helpful fountain of information, kind, and polite. They educated me about the range of choices I had when it came to brushes — so many options!)


(You know this was coming, dear reader.)

Twelve minutes into our conversation they ask, “So what are you painting?”

I share that I have a pair of screw holes in drywall in a living room. I’ve got the paint, I’ve got the joint compound, and I’ve got the texture. All I need is a simple brush.

And the clerk starts telling me about more different options I have, how to soak the paintbrush if I’m using latex paint vs. water-based paint vs. oil paint, how brush size impacts the paint job and how I don’t want too narrow or too wide of a brush…

I eventually got my pain brush — and got my wall all fixed up. And along the way, I re-learned an essential lesson about sales.

Sometimes when a lead approaches you looking for help, they might have a specific job in mind that they need help with:

  • Maybe they need a logo (and don’t need a whole brand package)
  • Perhaps they need a single page on their site optimized to rank better for a keyword (and don’t need a full site-wide SEO audit)
  • Maybe they need a paintbrush to take care of a quick repair (and don’t need to repaint their whole house)

When it comes to best helping, it’s sometimes valuable to give a deep dive into the range of options available to them (and the various features and benefits of each).

And sometimes it’s important to ask:

What’s the problem?


How can I help?


What outcome are you looking for?

And then decide if you need to gather more information or you know enough to share a specific recommendation so they can get the job done and move on to the next thing.

By the way, if you’re looking to gather more information from your leads and prospects in sales calls, you’ll want to start using an Initial Call Script. Stop guessing at what to ask and start using the lines that professional consultants use to lead the conversation and uncover what you need to know from the client. https://kaidavis.com/products/initial-call-script/



I write a high-quality, daily newsletter about marketing, growth, and lead generation for indie consultants, freelancers, and service professionals.

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