What, exactly is a solution? According to Merriam-Webster, it is “an action or process of solving a problem” Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
In the land of copier sales, duplexing (the ability to place images on both sides of a sheet of paper) was once considered a solution. Indeed, the times were much simpler.
Today, the phrase “solution selling” is as old as the hills — some say obsolete. But as with most opinions, it depends on who you ask and how you define solutions. Solutions are less about the “how” and more about the result, but when selling hardware, we tend to get caught up in the how. We talk about how long we’ve been in business, how toner is applied to paper, how much more can be saved with our lease and how fast our device spits out paper.
All true, but excruciatingly boring and out of date.
Let’s cover “solution selling” in today’s realm. I caution you — books have been written on this subject. Veritable reams of content and hours of classes teach thousands of selling professionals the ins and outs of solution selling, and I’m not going to even scratch the surface. There is even a movement against solution selling. So take these tidbits with a grain of salt — the selling landscape is dynamic. My suggestions can be used as a touchstone for the future.
First, forget about copiers. Lose sight of brand names, vendors, products, functions, buttons, speeds, feeds, reputations, manufacturing processes, awards, recognitions, employee tenure, your sales accomplishments, service response times, technology certifications and your company story (nobody cares that your boss started in his garage selling fax machines to churches).
Leave all that in the finely appointed conference room’s trashcan.
Instead, I suggest this formula:
Function = Result = Impact.
From a function comes a result, and that result influences an impact.
You recommend and ultimately provide a scanner. Your new client was tired of filing folders in huge, inconvenient cabinets, especially client-related documents. Customer feedback was negative because it took too long to retrieve invoices in question and respond to customer queries. Not only that, but entire customer files are often misfiled or lost. At times, staff would stay late, searching for or recreating customer files. Ownership was taking heat from the client base and employees were stressed and unhappy.
Let’s diagram this scenario:
Feature = Scanning
Result = Secure digital records, shorter response time, large filing cabinets physically removed
Impact = Positive customer feedback, happy owner, the accounting person is able to attend their kid’s baseball game and witness his first home run. *
Here’s my point. Every, single, sale has a feature, result and impact. We can’t sell on features alone — that’s what the internet is for. We might be able to convince with results, but in our equipment-based world, results are static, based on data and cold, unemotional connection. When you sell the impact — what happens after the feature provides a result, you sell to the soul of an issue. In the above example, your prospect may have thought they wanted a scanner when in reality, they wanted to go home on time and feel their customers enjoyed the relationship.
I don’t think solution selling is dead. But like almost everything involved with professional sales, the process is evolving. Think more along the lines of the impact of your recommendations and sell more stuff.
*Just an example.
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