Solution selling is an over used and fairly meaningless term in the current sales environment. The overuse of the generalised term ‘solution’ has rendered the term redundant as organisations position themselves as selling solutions as opposed to products and services.
No-one seems to be selling a product or a service anymore.
Additionally, the solutions selling framework relies on the identification of pain and/or problems. This language is somewhat dated.
Solution selling assumes that the corporate world is full of problems and pain. This is where solution selling hits the first hurdle.
Not every buyer subscribes to the idea of pain/problems within their business. The language of today focuses on opportunities, possibilities, positive outputs, beating the competition, increasing return on investment…the usage of terminology like pain and problem have no place in a competitive and thriving environment that seeks to do things better.
Not many CEOs I know experience either pain or problems…however, they do proactively seek opportunities to gain better results, improved outputs and perhaps this is where old fashioned solution selling needs to focus.
That said, if your sales team is selling to lower level decision makers then maybe they will encounter streams of people that will readily agree and buy into the concept that their days are full of problems.
But, rest assured, the average CEO won’t easily accept the concept of pain or problems, theCEOpsyche is always looking for results.
Without this mutual understanding solution selling, is simply a sales person trying to pass off ownership of third party pain on to an unsuspecting buyer.
Firstly, we have to question how ethical this is. Secondly we have to assess the feasibility of any sales process without total agreed understanding regarding the buyer’s unique situation, and that includes the use of a common language. Thirdly, is this a good use of sales resource or time to go hunting for problems and pain?
Also, consider how much time a CEO will want to spend getting to know your products/services/solutions. Whilst he may care about how your solution meets his needs, he is more interested in what RESULTS he can achieve by engaging your organisation.
Furthermore, he knows that he doesn’t want to stand the whole risk. He wants the buyer to take some of the responsibility for the outcomes achieved.
Begs the question – Is solution selling the best way for your sales team to get results?
Used properly…. Yes it is.
But just as solution selling has been repackages under many guises – competitive selling, value selling, consultative selling, complex selling, etc – then maybe we should concede that the message has lost a little in translation and the common usage of the term solution selling is just not discerning enough anymore…for the sales person or the buyer.
Things are changing, money is tighter, levels of accountability are higher, time is precious and every company in the world has an over riding responsibility to remove, or at least minimise, risk.
Also solution selling requires that there be a MEASUREBALE difference – a distinct before and after scenario. I applaud this is theory, but how many organisations have such a high level of control and measurement over their processes that they can reliably say ‘we did X and we saw a direct impact on Y’
So perhaps we need to consider that solution selling is not the best way to sell for all organisations, maybe it has better applications that are specific to particular vertical markets, products or services…before you answer, just consider where are sales teams falling down in solution selling?
- Prospecting – addressing the wrong decision makers with the wrong message and language
- Truly being able to diagnose the buyer’s problems
- Generating sufficient tailored solutions that produce RESULTS – every buyer thinks their problem is unique, so they want a unique solution
- Demonstrating real value, quantifiable and accountable results over a specific time period
- Collating enough proof and calculating likely expected ROI
- Positioning the solution as a win-win without agreeing to shared risk
- Owning the buyer post signature in order to ensure actual delivery on the projected solution results
The over riding route to success in sales is the ability for forge strong relationships. Relationships built on trust, honesty, integrity, mutual respect, transparency and accountability between the buyer and the sales person.
Solution selling supports this but only when it is real solution selling and not just a simple product or service with added verbiage.
- Use the whole solution selling process – not just the bits you find easy/like
- Look at the likely realistic results and how to best demonstrate these
- Use the correct language with the correct level of decision maker