I wrote about “The End Of Solution Selling” the other day. There’s a rich conversation, about this at the HBR site of the original article, kicked off by my friend, Charlie Green. My friend Jack Malcolm expanded on the discussion in his post today.
Wherever you land in the discussion, I think it’s important to recognize that “One Size Doesn’t Fit All.” That is, each customer buying situation is different. Sales people need a rich array of approaches and tools to intercept the customer in their buying process, align with them and to sell.
Helping the customer identify new opportunities to grow their businesses, working with customers who’ve identified a problem but need to better define it and research alternative solutions, working with a customer who has well researched the issue and has issued a RFP, or working with a professional buyer responsible for certain commodity purchases–each requires different ways of engaging the customer and helping them buy.
Usually, our sweet spot doesn’t cover the entire spectrum of buying scenarios, but probably covers several. Nimble sales people work with the customer where they are at, not forcing the customer to align with the way the sales person sells. It would be crazy to go to a professional buyer looking for a second source and to engage the buyer in “Insight Selling.” The problem they are trying to solve is different, the way we have to engage them is different, their receptivity to a certain sales approach is different.
At the same time, the sales person has to carefully quality each opportunity. By this, I mean, “Given where the customer is at, and how we need to engage them, is it worth our time and do we have a high probability of a successful outcome?” For example, I only respond to RFP’s that I’ve written for the customer. It’s usually a waste of my time to respond to an RFP from a customer I’ve never met. To me, I’m just RFP fodder. However, I have one client that manages this process very well. They happen to address a set of issues where the customer can usually define their needs well and my client can respond and compete–winning a majority of the RFP’s even though the may never have had a prior relationship with the customer.
The wonderful thing about professional sales is that it is not mechanistic. Customers aren’t like products going through a manufacturing line, where we do precisely the same thing with every customer at each step of the process, with zero variation. (That being said, once we determine where the customer is at in their buying journey there is a sales process–not completely prescriptive, that optimizes how we engage.)
Great sales people have a rich array of tools and methodologies to leverage, maximizing the value they create for their customers and their ability to win. Great sales people recognize they may intercept the customer at differing point in their buying cycle. In some situations, it’s to create the need to buy through providing deep insight. In others, it’s helping the customer who has identified the problem to better understand and define their needs. And the cases go on.
Great sales professionals are always learning, expanding their set of skills, adding to their portfolio, making them more nimble in aligning with the customer.
Insight selling is very powerful. Solution selling is very powerful, as is consultative selling, and various other approaches. Make sure you are able to leverage whichever is most appropriate for the situation and that you maximize the value you create for the customer and your ability to win.