solution selling

Whether you’re new to selling or have been doing it for decades, solution selling is a technique anyone can master with the right amount of practice. It can sometimes be counterintuitive to a new sales rep who thinks their job is to pitch and talk a prospect into buying. Instead, Solution Selling focusing on listening and understanding first before suggesting the right solution based on the prospect’s unique needs.

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Solution Selling Infographic

What is Solution Selling?

Also referred to as Consultative Selling, back in the mid-1970’s, Frank Watts, who at the time was an employee of Wang Laboratories, spent an awful lot of time developing a new, and rather an unusual approach to selling. This new sales technique, which would become known as solution selling, had a radically different sales process than the most popular sales methodology of the time which was called product selling.

Product selling involves merely trying to persuade a customer that the product you sell is a better version than the similar products each of your competitors is selling. However, salespeople using the product selling method of sales spend much of their time with potential buyers going over feature lists and pricing options.

Successful solution selling requires an alternative way of making a sale. Salespeople utilizing Watts’ approach to sales don’t concentrate on showing potential customers everything a product is capable of doing. Instead, they pinpoint the real-world problem the customer is currently facing and explain how their product can solve the problem in the best way possible.

Who the Solution Selling Methodology is For

Solution Selling is ideal when selling a product with lots of variables and options as it helps prospects gain clarity on their needs and which solution is best for them. It can be applied to something as simple as selling a new TV to complex B2B sales.

So, it sounds simple enough: Solution selling is finding ways you can make your customers’ lives better with your product. However, to begin to profit from solution selling, you need to master these Four Steps to Solution Selling.

Four Steps to Solution Selling

Here is the secret process of getting the most from solution selling. Following these steps can help supercharge your sales team.

Excellent Product Knowledge

Without in-depth knowledge about the products or services your company offers, it is almost impossible for your sales team to know which is the ideal solution for prospective customers. The best solution selling reps are not only knowledgable about their company’s offerings, they also have a deep understanding of what the competition is offering allowing them to simplify the sales process for the customer.

Have a game plan ready.

Before any member of your sales team approaches a potential customer, make sure he does his homework first. The seller needs to have a clear understanding of the customers’ needs, what potential problems the customer may be experiencing, and several benefits prepared beforehand to prove your company’s products or services can solve these issues.

Ask the right questions.

When meeting with a prospect for the first time, it is critical to ask the right questions to uncover any problems they might be trying to solve. Solution selling pros have a list of pre-created questions to diagnose the needs of the prospect, which positions them as the ideal solution.

Suggest a solution.

Once a potential customer shares the problem they’re trying to solve, the sales professional can then propose a solution (one of your products or services) that best meets the needs of the prospect. Instead of focusing on the features of the product or service, talk about how your solution can benefit the customer’s which then solves their problem or pain.

Solution Selling Funnel

The typical solution selling funnel would look like this:

  1. Prospect: Find buyers who meet your ideal buyer persona
  2. Qualify: Determine if they have the budget, authority and need for your product or service.
  3. Diagnose: Uncover the buyer’s needs
  4. Decision makers: Find out who are the decision makers and include them in the process
  5. Demonstrate Value: Focus on the value to offering brings to the customer
  6. Present: Present a solution that meets the uncovered needs of the buyer in the form of benefits instead of features
  7. Negotiate: Negotiate a win-win deal
  8. Close: Ask for the sale and close the deal
  9. Repeat: Nurture the customer to encourage repeat business and referrals

Typical Solution Selling Questions

  • What specific challenges are you facing?
  • What would happen if you don’t overcome those challenges?
  • What have you tried to overcome those challenges?

SOCO’s Thoughts on Solution Selling

Solution selling still works to this day, reps still need to know everything about their product, they still need to understand what their customer is looking for so they don’t blindly pitch the wrong product, and they still need to present their solution in a way that is tailored to the needs of the prospect. Solution selling is not dead, it has instead evolved.

Here at SOCO our methodology incorporates much of the Solution Selling philosophy, but we take it a step further instilling the skills reps need to close deals. The typical solution selling process can be too passive at times, instead sales professionals need to know when the situation calls for guidance on the rep’s part and what it takes to close the deal.

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Author Profile

Tom Abbott
Tom Abbott is the author of 'The SOHO Solution' and 'Social Selling' and the creator of the online sales training platform SOCO Academy. Sales leaders engage Tom for his proven solutions to building high performance sales teams that exceed targets and for motivational keynotes that energise their audiences.

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