4 Essential Steps of the Solution Selling Process Explained

Essential Steps of the Solution Selling Process Sales Infographic by SOCO Sales Training

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?

Originating from the mid-1970s and created by an employee of Wang Laboratories, Frank Watts. 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. Solution Selling sells the ‘solution’ instead of the ‘product’.

Solution Selling Vs Product Selling: What’s the difference?

Product selling only involves persuading a customer that the product you sell is a better version than the similar products competitors are selling. As a result, those using this method spend much of their time with potential buyers going over feature lists and pricing options.

Whereas solution selling differs because it 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.

Is Solution Selling better than Consultative Selling?

There’s a lot of overlap between solution selling and consultative selling. They’re often even used interchangeably. The main difference between solution selling and consultative selling is that solution selling focuses more on selling the solution than selling 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’.

Why is solution selling important?

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.

4 Essential Steps of The Solution Selling Process

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

solution selling sales infographic, ask the right questions, suggest a solution, have a plan, excellent product knowledge

1. Excellent Product Knowledge

You can’t suggest the ideal solution without having in-depth knowledge about your company’s products or services.

The best solution selling reps are not only product experts about their company’s offerings. 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, making them more likely to return.

2. 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.

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 the needs of the prospect, which positions them as the ideal solution.

4. 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 which then solves their problem or pain.

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 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 we’re training sales professionals, we encourage them to implement the following 3 strategies for putting a new spin on solution sales:

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 and that 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 the eyes of your customer, you represent the business and they expect you to be knowledgeable. What do you bring to the table? What’s your story? What’s your company’s brand story?

Product knowledge – The importance of having solid product knowledge cannot be overstated. Customers are looking to you as being 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 own brochures, pamphlets, catalogues and advertisements. Go on a plant tour to see firsthand how your products are produced. Talk to other people in your organisation: salespeople, customer service people, delivery people. Talk to your customers. Have you tried your own products and services?

2. Creating a Needs Assessment

Many of us make the mistake of trying to sell our products or services before fully understanding our prospects’ most pressing challenges. This is analogous to your doctor handing you a prescription before taking the time to fully understand your symptoms. Can you imagine that happening?

Diagnose before Prescribing – You can carefully diagnose your prospects’ symptoms by creating a needs assessment. The needs assessment is a benchmarking tool that compares your prospects’ process, or 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.

Identifying Goals – 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?”

10 needs analysis sales questions to ask

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. Your likeability and your ability to form strong relationships quickly will be more effective than having all the credentials in the world or even having the lowest price.

Partnering Relationships – 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.)

Final word: Our thoughts on Solution Selling

Solution selling still works to this day; reps still need to know everything about their product, and they still need to understand what their customer is looking for, so they don’t blindly pitch the wrong product. They still need to present their solution in a tailored way 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.

Become the best sales professional at your company today

Sales is a skill that needs to be learnt, practised and mastered. In the Sales Accelerator pack, we teach you the skills all sales professionals, entrepreneurs and small business owners need to sell effectively. Join us to master the sales process, starting with getting the right mindsetdifferentiating from the competitionbuilding strong relationships and delivering compelling sales presentations. 

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