The Doing and Being of Solution Selling

I recently attended a conference where 35 executives introduced their company in thirty seconds or less. Interestingly, two-thirds of them introduced their company as a provider of a product or service, with no reference to their customer. Only twelve introduced their company in terms of the problems they solve for customers.

This makes me wonder: how many salespeople introduce themselves as representatives of a product, service, or technology, instead of solvers of customers’ problems and challenges?

After more than 25 years of working with some of the world’s largest sales organizations, I’ve come to realize that solution-centric sellers aren’t just something they do, it is really more about who they are.

Doing Sales or Being a Solution Seller

So, how do you know if you’re just doing sales or if you’re also being a solution seller? Reflect on the last time the heat was on to make the number at the end of the quarter. Did your selling become more about ‘doing the deal’ as opposed to solving the customer problem?

Sellers who are focused on just doing sales – those who lead with their product, technology, or service – can develop into salespeople who are being solution sellers – those who lead with understanding their customer’s current or future problems. But, this doesn’t happen just by training people on to do Solution Selling.

In their book, The Solution-Centric Organization, co-authors Keith Eades and Robert Kear list the four fundamental transformations that need to occur if Solution Selling is to become a way of being in an organization.

  1. Change the way your salespeople THINK of themselves. Ensure executives lead by example as they teach, encourage, and expect salespeople to describe and introduce themselves as solvers of customers’ current and future problems, and not by the products, technology, or service your company provides. Make sure your sellers are crystal clear on the customer problems they can solve better than the competition.
  2. Change how your salespeople (and marketing) COMMUNICATE with customers. In customer-facing content (i.e., your company website, brochures, conference presentations, white papers, etc.), be sure to lead with how you address customer problems, trends, and emerging needs, and not the features or functions or your products, technology, or services.
  3. Change how your salespeople ENGAGE in customer conversations. Make sure you have salespeople with the right attributes, knowledge, skills, resources, and tools so they can focus on customers’ current or potential problems and recommend solutions that provide measurable value, not just talk about your company’s product, service, or technological superiority.
  4. Change how you train and recognize your salespeople, to REINFORCE solution-centricity. Invest in training that improves your salespeople’s knowledge about customers’ industries, issues, trends, and challenges, in addition to your company’s product/technical knowledge.  Make sure your salespeople are fluent in how your company’s capabilities solve or prevent your customers’ critical business issues. Provide incentives and recognition to salespeople for selling a solution that actually solves customer problems and creates measurable improvements, as opposed to sales incentives based purely on commissions or attaining revenue/profit goals.

Like any transformation, becoming solution-centric requires strong leadership by example, ensuring you have the right people with the right capabilities and tools, and the resolve to stay committed in spite of inevitable short-term obstacles.  But, the payoff is worth the effort, producing higher revenue growth, increased customer loyalty, and improved employee engagement.

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