Solution selling is the big thing in sales nowadays. Gone are the times when being a successful salesperson meant badgering the poor prospect into purchasing your product. With so many people talking about selling solutions nowadays, is it the right fit for you and your business?
Solution selling has been one of the most efficient ways of selling in the modern business landscape. It is an essential skill to learn if one wants to consider themselves a quality salesperson. However, nowadays it is starting to become slightly outdated, and certain new skills are necessary to maintain success in sales.
This article will address most of what you need to know about this method of sales. It will talk about the process and the methodology behind it while also pointing out the underlying problems which it faces in the current and future sales landscape. At the very end, the article will feature a section about us, the PGN, and all how we can help you if you are looking to sell solutions.
What is it?
Selling solutions is a modern approach to the (B2B) sales process which places in focus the wants and needs of the business you are selling to. It is a step away from the traditional sales approach where the sleazy salesperson badgers a seemingly unsuspecting prospect into buying something they may not even really need.
In the modern business world, potential clients are simply too smart and informed, and they are very aware if they are being coerced. This new environment of emotional awareness and resistance to manipulation requires a salesperson to approach the situation more as a consultant than anything else. With a listening ear, they need to be able to let their client tell them what they need to solve their problems and then convince them that they have exactly a solution (to be sold).
Some call it a glorified version of the old manipulative method. Perhaps, but there is no questioning that it is much healthier. We will now describe the methodology that goes into selling a solution.
The Methodology of Selling Solutions
Step 1 - Prepare
This step is not much different from the traditional sales method. The difference is that instead of researching who your client is, you research what they need. In other words, you are trying to find out what problems they have been dealing with in their business or which potential problems may spring up from the way they are currently functioning.
Step 2 - Diagnose
Now comes the time to put all the information you have acquired in the first step to good use. Going off of that information, ask the client open-ended questions that allow them to talk openly and broadly about any issues they might be facing. Listen carefully and note down any areas in which you think there might be a problem you could help solve.
Step 3 - Qualify
Use a set of questions or criteria to determine if your client is either interested in the solution you are offering or in a position to make a decision, whether it be about purchasing the solution, starting a trial, or agreeing to an additional sales call.
Step 4 - Educate
It is in this step that the real difference between this sales method and the outdated method of the past really gets accented. This is the point where you must convince your client that the solution you have to sell is the right one for them. They need to feel like it can solve their problems (and, realistically, it should).
Explain to them how they would get a great return on their investment, how it would reduce their operation costs, and save them money over time. You might even consider providing them with case studies of your previous success stories as proof. Whichever angle you choose to tackle this from, the goal is to make them realize they need your solution.
Step 5 - Solve
This step is really about bringing the sale to a close. Mirror the language and style of communication that your client is using while you continue telling them why your solution is ideal for their particular set of issues. As in the last step, bring up past clients and success stories to further drive the point home and close.
Step 6 - Close
This is the time to counter any objections they may have with benefit-driven responses. Remember, you are not trying to manipulate or badger them but merely to ease their worries. Be friendly and open rather than insisting. Try to gauge from their responses whether or not they are ready for a hard close or if a softer, more informal close would be better. Finally, always keep bringing it back to why your solution is the right thing for them.
Is solution selling a dead-end?
This is an important question to ask because recent trends in B2B sales suggest that this might be the reality we are heading towards. You might be asking yourselves as to why we are talking about this when we had just given you the full methodology telling you how to effectively sell solutions. This is not a mistake, however, as the world of business is nowhere near reaching a clear consensus when it comes to the fate of this sales method.
So why would someone say that it is no longer useful or profitable to sell solutions? Well, in recent years customers have become more informed than ever. They no longer wait for salespeople to come and talk to them in order to diagnose their problems and offer solutions. With access to a wealth of information online it is easier now more than ever to find out what exactly you need and just look for the best place to buy it yourself.
Furthermore, many businesses now hire sophisticated procurement teams and purchasing consultants armed with troves of data who can help them procure a solution for themselves.
On the flip side, your potential clients cannot always figure out the problem and, much less so, the solution to that problem.
Therefore, solution sellers still have a window where they can operate. This window is further widened in cases where you have a new CEO that is eager to make their mark upon the company. The reason why such a situation spawns an opportune moment is that the company is ripe for change and in a state of flux at that point with the people in charge looking to change the status quo. Look for such moments and you will be much more successful at selling your solution.
Furthermore, you do not have to follow the methodology presented here to a tee. You can also craft a custom methodology that is tailored to the particular client you are working with. Sometimes that can circumvent the inherent problems of the solutions selling model. One of the most interesting revisions of the standard methodology is one we are going to take a look at next.
Insight selling, as described here, is a modified method of sales which does not try and probe around for a hook or opening by asking the client open-ended questions. Rather, the salesperson tries to challenge their potential client and make them step outside of their comfort zone. Of course, this is all done gracefully and it should be transformative rather than manipulative.
You need to make the client aware of the information they simply did not have before. Using this method, you draw their attention to issues they could not have researched as they simply were not aware that they have or could have them. Thus, you do not need to wait for them to present an issue, but rather make them see that there is another aspect of their business or the marketplace that has so far been a blind spot for them.
Additionally, always focus on showing your prospect how much value you can offer in regards to the situation, which should make them value you highly and even regard you as indispensable.
Once this insight has been properly communicated to your client, the key is to stay with them and guide them through the sales process.
Another thing to focus on with insight selling is something we have mentioned before and that is looking out for businesses that are ready for change and are in a state of flux. These sorts of clients will be much more open to whatever insights you have to offer and more willing to implement whatever solutions you suggest.
Finally, focus on communicating with change agents rather than friendly informants. Change agents, although sometimes more intimidating, are as their name suggests very open to change and will not need a lot of convincing from your sales reps. If approached correctly, they will happily defend your insight and solution before their company.
That said, whether you are trying to sell solutions or insights, you may need some help or, at the very least, guidance. Luckily, we have got you covered. And who are we?
Now comes the part where we, the PGN introduce ourselves. If you are interested in solution selling and would like help in doing it effectively, then look no further. We specialize in connecting innovative technology with business buyers and provide a network of local consultants to assist in this.
Reading this article has no doubt made you realize that selling solutions is not always straightforward and that sometimes some extra information or practical assistance may be necessary. If you have a solution(s) that you would like to sell but do not know how exactly to go about it or are running into some difficulties, do not hesitate to contact us.
Although those who sell solutions may find that they need to update their methodology so it suits the modern marketplace, it is still a valid way of generating profit. The important thing is to understand what your customers are looking for versus what they can already get for themselves. If you do that, you should be good.
Furthermore, in this branch of sales, it is not often obvious what needs to be done and how to go about doing it. Often, a helping hand is necessary. If you are a salesperson working with solutions and would like some help doing what you do, do not hesitate to contact us over at the PGN.