The other day Seth Godin offered a short post on Sold or Bought. It offered an interesting perspective, but he didn’t go far enough on selling. We can further refine this view in a number of ways. One of the major splits I see is sales people who are really order takers versus solution creators.
Order takers focus on their product. They can be very customer service oriented. But the quality of their interaction is very different from a solution creator. In prospecting, they call the customer asking about their use of widgets, their satisfaction with their current widgets and whether they need new widgets.
When they find a customer who needs a widget, they are very good about providing the customer all the information about their widget and why it’s better than other widgets. They can even read through their lists of features and benefits. They ask the customer if they have any questions about the capabilities of their widget.
They can be very customer oriented and very polite. After they answer the customer’s questions, they ask for the order. The customer probably isn’t ready, so they call them back a few days or a week later and ask, “How are things going? Do you have any more questions about our widget? I’m delighted to answer any questions you might have about our widget. When do you think you will be making a decision?”
Then they wait. They forecast it in closing, they say the order will come in any day now, and they wait.
They call a week later, “How are things going? Do you have any more questions about our widget? I’m delighted to answer any questions you might have about our widget. When do you think you will be making a decision?”
Then they wait. They slip the close date another few weeks or a month.
Then they call again…..
I see order takers in all industries, selling all kinds of things–products, services. They could be big ticket items. Order takers worry about their order and are oblivious to what the customer is trying to achieve.
Solution Creators are different. They’re idea people, they’re results people–not just for themselves but for the customer. They help their customers envision a new future. They help their customers think about their business differently. They help their customer change and improve.
When they prospect, they never ask about their needs and requirements for widgets. They talk to the customer about what they are trying to achieve. They present ideas, “Have you ever considered what might happen if you did this…..?” They analyze the customer and say, “Do you realize if you did this, you might improve this much in these areas?”
When they engage the customer they talk about what the customer is trying to achieve. They don’t spend a lot of time on what their solution does, it’s features or capabilities. They know it’s not about the product but what the customer is trying to achieve. Instead they focus on outcomes and results the customer will achieve. They quantify these results, so the customer can clearly understand the impact it will have on their business.
They create a sense of excitement and urgency in the customer to change. When the customer slows down, they refocus the customer on opportunity costs, on what they are missing by delaying a decision and implementation. They focus on when the customer will achieve results, not when they will get the order. (But they know when the order has to come in for the customer to achieve the results in the desired time frame).
They don’t compete on features, advantages and benefits because they know they rarely lose because of a feature. Instead the focus on results the customer will achieve. They focus the customer on achieving those results and not whether they are missing a certain feature.
Order takers are being threatened with extinction. Prospects and customers can get information about products elsewhere. They can get answers to their questions in other ways, without the annoyance of someone constantly asking for an order. The value order takers used to create is no longer needed because customers and prospects have more efficient means of getting that information.
Solution creators are treasured. Customers need ideas. They are often so busy, they are blind to opportunities to improve. Customers welcome solution creators because they create value.
Things are bought and sold.
There are order takers and solution creators.
Which are you? How do you know?