Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The End of Solution Sales

I have just been reading an article in the Harvard Business Review (July-August 2012) and was intrigued with the headline: ‘The End of Solution Selling’.

The article announces that “the old playbook no longer works” and that “star salespeople now seek to upend the customer’s current approach to doing business”.  Bold statement and interesting observation I thought.

For many years we have championed the cause of sales professionals solving the problems of their customers to win business, and ensure repeat business - solution selling. 

But in recent times it has become apparent that being the font of all knowledge to our clients and solving all their problems is not enough. For a start, customers make an approach or enquiry armed with more knowledge of our product or service than ever before. They have researched and compared all before walking through our door.

As the article outlines, “customers completed, on average, nearly 60% of a typical purchasing decision – researching solutions, ranking options, setting requirements, benchmarking pricing, and so on – before even having a conversation with a supplier”. With this in mind, the celebrated ”solution sales rep” can be more of an annoyance than an asset!

Insight selling” is now the mantra of the best salespeople. It is a new strategy that demands a radically different approach across several areas of the purchasing process.

Solution Selling
Insight Selling
What kind of company to target
Organisations that have a clear vision and established demands
Agile organisations that have emerging demands or are in a state of flux
What sort of initial information to gather
What need is the customer seeking to address?
What unrecognised need does the customer have?
When to engage
After the customer has identified a problem the supplier can solve
Before the customer has pinpointed a problem
How to begin the conversation
Ask questions about the customer’s need and look for a “hook” for your solution
Offer provocative insights about what the customer should do
How to direct the flow of information
Ask questions so that the customer can steer you through its purchasing process
Coach the customer about how to buy, and support it through the process

Source: Harvard Business Review August-July 2012, p63.

Sales professionals need to be adaptive. Solution selling skills need to be complemented with strategies to challenge, insights to engage clients and the touch to coach how they should buy. Successful reps “may still be selling insights. And in this new world, that makes the difference between a pitch that goes nowhere and one that secures the customer’s business.”

The full articles is linked on our website, so take the time to have a read and see how Insight Selling might better suit the ‘new age’ customer in your market?