Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been engaged in a “discussion,” that is really more about “Mine is bigger and better than yours.” This particular discussion started with what I thought was the SEB’s particularly ill constructed argument that “Solution Selling Is Dead.” My purpose in this article is not to perpetuate that discussion. If you are curious, read my blog post–but more importantly read the comment stream.
Unfortunately, we see and participate in those discussions too often. And too often, I think they miss the things that are most important to our customers. We get into discussions about methodology—and if we sell a methodology, we focus on how our methodology is better than someone else’s. If we sell a software tools, say CRM, we talk about how our CRM system is better than the competitor’s, or we may talk about technology, why the cloud is better than an enterprise solution.
More generally, whatever it is that we sell, we always talk about the superiority of our offerings. Some tend to approach this by focusing on differences with the competition or by bashing the competition, I tend to think these are weak sales strategies. Some great sales professionals focus on the results and value the customer could achieve, and the impact on the ability to achieve their goals. However we do it, it is critical to differentiate our solutions from the alternatives the customer is considering.
But there is something more. Too often, sales people—and even our customers lose sight of this. It’s fun, stimulating, creative work to talk about new strategies, new approaches, new methodologies, processes, systems, and tools. It is great to think about the future without the problems and challenges we face today.
Ultimately, what each of us sells is “potential.” We sell the dream or the capability to vastly improve things, to drive great change, to achieve new goals. But to create real value for our customers, we have to go beyond the “potential.” We have to create results for our customer, or in the least, make sure they can achieve the results we promised
The real issue always seems to be implementation, execution, and sustained performance improvement. Execution is always the hard part! As vendors–whatever it is we sell, we create the greatest value in helping our customers understand and manage this — not only in making their decision, but more importantly in helping them make it happen.
New strategies, new methodologies, new systems, new tools, new processes offer great potential, but don’t produce results. It’s the execution and active implementation of those strategies, methodologies, systems, processes, and tools that produce results.
There is no magic to implementation and execution. It’s ugly, dirty, detailed, and tough. The reality of implementation and execution is that it requires tremendous discipline. It requires focus, it requires attention to detail. It requires constant energy and courage–particularly when we hit the inevitable rough spots and difficulties. There’s nothing sexy about making something happen. It’s tedious and sometimes boring.
What’s worse, implementation and execution is about accountability! Making decisions is relatively easy. While certain decisions require great courage, the greatest courage being accountable for making it happen.
This is an issue all of us face in engaging our customers, not just those who sell Sales Methodologies, Tools or other Sales Effectiveness programs. Provocative ideas, new approaches, new systems or tools, new products and solutions all can offer our customers great potential. They create great excitement, because we focus on a new future. However, what produces results for our customers is not the methodology, system, process, tool; but it’s the successful implemetation and sustained sharp execution of those things.
Too often, we, sales professionals, aren’t around to help our customers in implementation and execution. Perhaps we should be, perhaps that’s where we create greatest value–helping our customers translate “potential” into results through sharp execution. Even if it is inappropriate for us to continue our engagement through implementation and execution, we do need to make sure the customer has a plan, the resources, and ability to execute, creating the results expected. Otherwise, our value propositions become empty promises.