Whether you’re new or seasoned in sales, solution selling is a technique anyone can master. Especially when coupled with the right amount of practice. So, read on to discover how to use the solution selling to listen and understand first. Then suggest the right solution based on the prospect’s unique needs by using these 4 essential steps.
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What is Solution Selling?
Solution Selling was created in the mid-1970s by an employee of Wang Laboratories, Frank Watts. In summary, Solution Selling is a sales approach that replaces old ‘Product Selling’ practices. It focuses on selling the solution to the prospect’s problem. Instead of focusing on selling the product alone. Solution Selling sells the ‘solution’ instead of the ‘product’.
Solution Selling Vs Product Selling: What’s the difference?
Product Selling is persuading customers that your product is better than any of your competitors.
As a result, those using this method spend much of their time with potential buyers. That’s because salespeople spend much time reviewing feature lists and pricing options.
In comparison, Solution Selling requires an alternative way of making a sale. For example, salespeople using Watts’ sales approach don’t concentrate on features.
Instead, they pinpoint the real-world problem the customer is currently facing. Then explain how their product can solve the problem in the best way possible.
Is Solution Selling better than Consultative Selling?
There’s a lot of overlap between Solution Selling and Consultative Selling. But they’re not the same.
The main difference is that Solution Selling focuses more on selling the solution than the product itself.
In contrast, Consultative Selling incorporates selling the solution. It tends to focus more on the questions and ‘consulting’ before suggesting a ‘solution’.
Discover the 4 steps to Consultative Selling success in more detail below:
Why is solution selling important?
Solution Selling is ideal when selling a product with many variables and options as it helps prospects clarify their needs. This process helps determine which solution is best for them. You can apply it to something as simple as selling a new TV to complex B2B sales.
While it sounds simple enough, Solution selling is finding ways you can make your customers’ lives better with your product. But to begin to profit from solution selling. You need to master these Four Steps of Solution Selling.
4 Essential Steps of The Solution Selling Process
Discover how to get the most from Solution Selling. Follow these 4 essential steps below to supercharge your sales team:
1. Excellent Product Knowledge
You can’t suggest the ideal solution without being knowledgeable about your products or services.
The best Solution Selling reps are not only product experts. But they also have a deep understanding of what the competition is offering. This knowledge allows them to simplify the sales process for the customer.
As a result, they’re more satisfied and enjoy the buying experience. Overall making customers more likely to return.
2. Have a game plan ready.
Before approaching a potential customer, make sure to do your homework first. The seller needs to have a clear understanding of the customers’ needs. More so, what potential problems the customer may be experiencing. Then prepare several benefits beforehand to prove your solution will solve these issues.
3. 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 prospects’ needs. This step helps position them as the ideal solution.
4. Suggest a solution.
Once a potential customer shares the problem, propose a solution that best meets the prospect’s needs. But instead of focusing on the product or service’s features, discuss how your solution will benefit the customer.
Typical Solution Selling Questions
- What specific challenges are you facing?
- How will it affect the outcome if you don’t overcome those challenges?
- What have you tried to overcome those challenges?
A New Spin: 3 Modern Solution Selling Strategies
A New Spin on Solution Sales: In a Harvard Business Review article, ‘The End of Solution Sales’, the authors cited that “customers completed, on average nearly 60% of a typical buying decision… before even having a conversation with a supplier.” If that’s a fact, what role do the sales professional have in the remaining 40%? When training sales professionals, we encourage them to use the following 3 strategies. Discover how to put a new spin on solution sales below:
1. Becoming Familiar With Your Own Products
There’s good news and bad news. I’ll start with the bad news: Buyers have more choices available to them now than ever before. This issue complicates the buying process. Now, the good news: Becoming a product expert will simplify and shorten the buying process with customers.
You are the product
In your customer’s eyes, you represent the business. As such, they expect you to be knowledgeable. So, before meeting with customers, ask yourself:
- What do I bring to the table?
- What’s my story?
- What’s my company’s brand story?
We can’t overstate the importance of having solid product knowledge. Customers look to you as the product expert. So be sure to do your homework so that you can answer any questions they have.
Become a product expert
Read your brochures, pamphlets, catalogues and advertisements. Or, go on a plant tour to see firsthand how you produce products. Talk to other people in your organisation: salespeople, customer service, and delivery people. Use the products for yourself. Then, talk to your customers.
2. Creating a Needs Assessment
Many of us make a fatal mistake; trying to sell our products or services before fully understanding prospects’ most pressing challenges.
This is akin to your doctor handing you a prescription before taking the time to understand your symptoms thoroughly. Can you imagine that happening? Probably not.
Diagnose before Prescribing
You can carefully diagnose your prospects’ symptoms by creating a needs assessment. The needs assessment is a benchmarking tool. It compares your prospects’ process and how they’re doing things now to what you, as the expert, consider to be the industry standard or best practice.
Challenges and Solutions
Here’s a great question to start with: What specific challenges are you facing? Another question I find useful is, “What have you tried to help overcome those challenges?” Next, you want to ask your prospects what they have tried that worked. I also find it useful to ask what didn’t work.
Another important question to ask is, “What are your goals?” The next few questions help you become more engaged with the prospect and help them to see you as a partner. “What are you looking to achieve in our work together?”, “What would success look like to you as a result of this solution?”, and finally, “Looking back a year from now, what will need to have happened for you to know this has been successful?”
3. Establishing Strong Relationships
A salesperson can compete on the basis of product, price and service. But still, lose the sale because of the relationship between the customer and a competitor’s salesperson.
As such, your likeability and ability to form strong relationships quickly are more effective than having all the credentials in the world. Or even having the lowest price.
With the increased competition and greater product and service complexity of today’s marketplace, there is a need to adopt a relationship strategy that emphasises the lifetime customer. Instead of viewing prospects as transactional customers that you sell to once, you view them as partners in a long-term selling relationship.
Keys to Partnering
There are three keys to a partnering relationship: the relationship is built on shared values; everyone clearly understands the purpose of the partnership and is committed to the vision, and the role of the salesperson moves from selling to supporting.
Four Key Groups
Your relationship strategy needs to focus on four key groups: customers, secondary decision-makers, your company support staff and your management personnel. You need the support of these people to help you reach your goals. What are you doing to establish, build and maintain relationships with people in those key groups?
The bottom line
Customers don’t need sales professionals the same way they used to, but they still need sales professionals to help anticipate, contextualise and implement the solutions available to them.
(Note: With so many different sales training methodologies, how do you know which are contrarian buzzwords and which actually generate results for sales reps? One of our recent client’s closing percentages increased from 20% to 50% within months of our training based on the methodology from my sales book ‘The SOHO Solution’. Curious to learn more? Please share your comments below or send me a message.)
Recommended Solution Selling Books
Keep learning how to use Solution Selling with some of the best-recommended books available today:
1. Solution Selling: The Strongman Process
First published in 2016 by sales trainer Ed Wal this book is one of the most recent on Solution Selling. It’s a “no-nonsense” book that provides step-to-step instructions on how to sell solutions. Overall, it gets straight to the point and tackles Solution Selling from a modern perspective. Therefore accounts for changes in how sales teams and consumers operate.
2. Solution Selling: Creating Buyers in Difficult Selling Markets
Written in 1995, this book is an invaluable resource for learning how to sell products that are either intangible or solve obscure but universal problems.
Overall an excellent choice for those wanting to learn about solution selling and how they can use it in their business. So expect to receive a comprehensive guide that gives you all the relevant information you need to know about Solution Selling.
3. The Solution Selling Fieldbook: A Practical Guide to Real-World Solutions
If you’re looking for Solution Selling books that have a fresh take on the sales approach, then this is the perfect book.
It starts by introducing the solution selling process. It then discusses how you can adapt it to different sales environments. Then it offers some guidelines for solution selling implementation.
Overall, in this book, they explore an up-to-date version of the solution sales methodology to suit the modern business world.
4. The New Solution Selling
Published around 10 years after the original “Solution Selling” book was published, this book is what many call the sequel. Although it’s true many sequels don’t live up to the originals -this book is an exception.
In this book, Eades builds off established solution-selling concepts and introduces new ones. Then, he explores a more streamlined approach to solution selling. One that helps sales teams achieve their goals.
Even better, it comes with a workbook, which will further your understanding of the concepts introduced in the book and help you implement their daily processes.
Final word: Our thoughts on Solution Selling
Solution selling still works to this day. Reps still need to know everything about their product and understand customer needs so they don’t pitch the wrong product.
More so, they need to present their solution in a tailored way to the needs of the prospect. Solution selling is not dead. It’s evolved.
At SOCO, our methodology incorporates much of the Solution Selling philosophy. But we take it a step further by instilling the skills reps need to close deals. The typical solution selling process can sometimes be too passive. Instead, we believe sales professionals need to know when the situation calls for guidance and what it takes to close the deal.
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