Selling solutions is a great way to differentiate yourself from your competitors, add VALUE to your customer relationships and increase your success rate at opening new accounts.
START AT THE BEGINNING
However, before you can identify a PROBLEM you must take the time to learn about the prospect and the types of problems they face in their daily business operations. Ask your prospect open-ended questions focused on how they use the types of products or services you offer. Know your strengths as a potential supplier and know what you bring to the table that is UNIQUE as contrasted with your competitors.
BE A PROBLEM-SOLVER
The information gathering process may require multiple meetings over a period of time. Here you are beginning to establish yourself as someone that truly has the prospect's INTERESTS in mind, not just someone with a desire to sell something and move on. After you have a good understanding of problems and opportunities for improvement you can begin to offer potential SOLUTIONS to your prospect. The solution selling process is all about gaining a series of agreements using a step-by-step process. Successful solution selling requires the salesperson to navigate through the following steps before closing the sale.
STEP 1 -- WHAT IS THE PROBLEM OR UNMET NEED?
Is it only a matter of time before this need results in lost revenues, profits or productivity? Or is it something that would be good to resolve but realistically will not impact operations to any significant degree? If it's the latter, there may never be a compelling REASON to make a change -- therefore is it worth the effort from you to sell a solution if the odds are against the prospect taking action? It's best to face this early in the selling process before you INVEST significant time and effort. Once a problem has been uncovered, you want to gain agreement from your prospect that there is indeed a gap here that could be filled with your offering.
STEP 2 -- HOW CRITICAL IS THIS PROBLEM?
On the other hand, perhaps your competitor has had a recent history of erratic quality in their product or service -- one that could cause disruption in daily work flow and subsequent lost revenue to your prospect, which might place their customer relationships at risk. This can spell big OPPORTUNITY for you as an alternative supplier. Framing the potential business consequences of the problem and gaining agreement from your prospect from a "what if" perspective sets the stage for a sense of URGENCY to take action on your proposal and also provides guidance on the true monetary worth of your solution. At this point, if your contact has agreed there is a problem in need of a solution, he or she has a personal stake in advancing your proposal. Now in the next step, we focus on the decision process.
STEP 3 -- WHO HAS AUTHORITY TO TAKE ACTION?
Can your contact act on his or her own? Does your proposal require the involvement and acceptance of others? Will others also have to SIGN OFF on the proposal before the sale is closed? It is critical at this point to define how the buying decision is made and who is involved. Now is the time to bring those additional decision makers into the selling PROCESS if they are not already involved. Be prepared to address objections and different viewpoints. Your original contact should be actively involved in promoting your solution at this stage.
STEP 4 -- GAIN THE FINAL AGREEMENT
By this point, you have raised the visibility of this unmet need and involved EVERYONE that touches it from a decision-making standpoint. You have an internal advocate for your proposed solution. And more importantly, by following this process you have established your CREDENTIALS as someone interested in solving problems and adding value beyond simply providing a product or service. Now you might have to amend your proposal to address new concerns or perspectives, but your professional approach and desire to solve a real problem significantly increase the odds of closing the sale.
Greg Evershed has over 23 years sales experience in B to B markets. His consulting practice focuses on assisting clients to develop strategic selling plans and selling processes with emphasis on value added selling using business intelligence tools. He also conducts customized sales training programs focused on solution and conceptual selling. He may be contacted at .
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