I hear people talking about selling solutions all the time. What they normally mean is that they want to bundle together as many products as possible to increase the sale to the customer. That to me is NOT a solution sale. It’s a drive for revenue and ultimately not something that is good business.
In my business experience over the last 12 years, I’ve been selling solutions to clients and I’ve not really even realised it. I’ve been doing it subconsciously because the people around me that I’ve learnt from have been very smart people in understanding a client’s business requirements and translating them into solutions. Solution selling is a mindset, a methodology, relationship building and very addictive if you are so inclined.
Solutions selling is first and foremost about understanding the customer’s business needs. To do this, you need to get the customer to tell you where they are heading in their business, what their business goals are and how long it will take them to get there.
Once you know this information, you can begin the next phase of the solution sale, which is around designing the solution. Sure, your solutions might use a number of key components all the time, but the reasons you use those components should be based on how they solve the business problems as opposed to “it’s what we always do”. Designing the solution needs to meet the customer’s business objectives. The only way you will know this for sure is if you can get the customer to agree on the pain points that they are experiencing. In the SMB space, you are normally dealing with the decision maker – being the financial controller or the business owner themselves.
Make the effort
Access to the decision makers is critical to the solution sale, as without them you cannot be sure that the pain points and the solution you are providing will be acceptable from all aspects. In a corporate or enterprise sale, you will often find the decision makers may be a level or two removed from the people you are dealing with on a day-to-day basis. Make the effort. Find out who the decision makers are and get them involved early in the engagement to ensure you don’t miss the mark.
Now that you’ve understood the problems, designed the solution, got customer acceptance of the problems that you are solving with your solution, and had access to the decision makers, you should be done. Only problem is that you have not negotiated the sale and the order. For some clients this is a relatively painless process. Others want to screw you down on the price of the components. I may not be a good negotiator in that respect, because I simply ask the customer “which part of the solution do you not want”. Naturally, most customers want it all but at a cheaper price. I tend not to bargain on price as I feel it cheapens the value of the solution we are providing. I simply state my case and let them decide. I offer them fi nancing options to help with cash fl ow, which is common more and more lately.
Once we get the order, we then deliver and implement the solution as per the specifi cation. We also do something few people do and that is to close the loop by showing the customer how the solution really does solve the business problems that we started out with in the beginning. This may be through showing reports generated from the system or via working with the customer to ensure they are getting the value out of the system. This closed loop approach gives us the chance to ensure that everyone is happy and tends to lead to more referral business and other opportunities with the client.
A few closing points I must enforce when selling solutions: