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Solution Buying…….

by David Brock on July 31st, 2018

Silly me, I always thought we were supposed to sell solutions.

That is, as sales people, we were supposed to understand our customers and their businesses–not in the abstract, but very specifically.  What are Christy’s goals, dreams?  What is she accountable for?  What issues stand in the way of her achieving these?  What happens when she doesn’t achieve them?

Likewise, I thought we were supposed to understand the customer’s businesses, again, not in the abstract, but very specifically.  What are the goals/priorities of Christy’s managers, all the way up to the top of the company?  How is the company doing in achieving those goals?  How are they performing for their customers and in their markets?  How are they performing compared to the alternatives?  What stands in the way of their achieving their goal?  What do they need to change?  What is their willingness to change?  What happens if they don’t change?

Then again, back to Christy, what’s this mean to her, her colleagues, and the other 5.8 people that might be involved in the buying process?

Then finally, how do we help them achieve their goals?  How do we help them change?  But this was very specific, it focused on Christy and the other 5.8, it focused on the company.  “Currently, your performance is this…., I understand you want to change to do that……  If you aren’t successful the consequences are…..  But if you did this……  you could achieve that…. In this period of time….. and the risks would be these….”

I thought that we were supposed to focus on those issues most important to Christy and her colleagues.  While we might have a laundry list of many areas where we could help them, those that were important to Christy and her team were the one’s we focused on, and we didn’t bother her with the things that were irrelevant to them.

That’s what solution selling is about…….or at least that’s what I thought.

Yet, it seems that’s not how solution selling is practiced by the majority of sales and marketing people.

It seems solution selling is more “self centered,” that is about the seller’s company, products(solutions), and how wonderful these are.  It seems this type of solution selling works this way:

Reach out to as many people, organizations as you can—the more the better, the more frequently the better.

Present,  “This is our company and all these customers “just like you,” buy from us…”  It turns out none of those companies are “just like us,” but I’m left with figuring out it maybe the are and what it might mean.

Present,  “These are our wonderful products and this is what they do…….”

Alternatively, “Our solutions help you increase revenue, decrease costs, improve profitability, improve customer satisfaction, improve your competitiveness, improve productivity….”

Then on to the demo, where we learn more about what the products do….

By that time, the customer is supposed to have that “Aha moment,” and immediately succumb to issuing a purchase order, as the sales person moves to the next customer selling the same solution.

And then customer success contacts us with, “what do you want to do……..”

It seems today’s solution selling is, indeed, about problems and the problems solved.

But it is not about Christy’s or her organization’s problems.  That is, it is not specifically about what concerns her, her team and her organization.  It is not specific about what they will achieve, when they will achieve it, how they can achieve it, what they have to do/change, or the risks…..

It seems solution selling is not about the customer, but what we do and the problems we solve.

For Christy and her team to understand what it means to them (or what is even relevant to them), they have to become solution buyers.  That is, they have to sort through the lists of features/functions/speeds/feeds.  They have to sort through the problems the solutions address always asking,

“What does this mean to me/us?  What parts of this solution are relevant to me/us?  How will it impact us?  What specific results will we achieve?  What do we have to do to achieve them?  How do we do this?  What are the risks?”

It seems the new version of solution selling is just about generic problems/opportunities.  To understand what it means to the customer, the customer has to figure it out.

Apparently, the new solution selling is dependent on the customers’ abilities to be great solution buyers.

That is, they have to have the ability, and willingness, to sort through the solution to figure out what it means to them.  They have to recognize where their problems are, recognize they need to change, then figure out the specific improvements the solution will provide them.

For them it’s insufficient to know the solution improves productivity, improves revenue, reduces costs, improves competitiveness.  They have to answer, “by how much, when, how do we do it?”

And customers have figured this out, they know they have to become solution buyers.  They know the solution sellers won’t be able to help them out with these issues.   They don’t know how, they don’t have the ability, or they don’t care.

Solution buyers have learned they have to figure these things out themselves.  And they have become very efficient at it–they’ve learned they don’t need solution sellers.

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