Death of a solution salesman
The traditional idea of ‘solution selling’ is not a bad one, but times are changing. How can the modern business keep up?
I read with interest in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) that the death knell has tolled for the tried and trusted ‘solution’ sale. This decades-old technique used to be a reliable way to package an often complex selection of products and services in such a way it appeared to solve all the customer's problems (hence the name). The model, as Tiffani Bova explains in her Gartner blog, relies on the transaction being ‘expert to non-expert’. Since the term was coined in the Eighties, the customer has gotten smarter. Research is just a matter of going online and you’re a few clicks away from enlightenment; which is why it’s so much harder to establish yourself as an expert these days, in the eyes of the client.
The article also points to a recent study by the Corporate Executive Board which suggests the modern buyer is typically 60% through the buying process before inviting vendors to pitch. By coming in after the RFQ has been written and the major decisions have been made, the salesperson is walking into a price war with no power to disrupt the process.
The Harvard Business Review’s Solution
HBR go on to say that consultants need to update their approach and go after businesses who are in flux and open to change and new ideas. All good so far, but there’s only a finite number in each marketplace. When brought in at such a late stage, the authors of the piece suggest re-framing the discussion and attempting to rewind the process to a point where the decisions can be influenced. I would broadly agree with that, but one thing does have to be considered - if a rep successfully takes the project back to the drawing board, the odds are better that you’ll win the deal, but it will add weeks or months to the timeline.
Get in First
So, what can be done to influence buyers before they write that RFQ? I would suggest Content Marketing is the key. By writing articles, white papers and blog posts, your business can start educating the market potentially before they realize they have a problem. Those words can swing the decision-making process to your favor without you being involved at all! It’s like whispering in the ear of the prospect.
To reinforce this idea, a philosophy we believe in at Unily is ‘destination selling’. The vehicle is only part of the journey, a significant factor in the decline of traditional solution sales. More and more, educated buyers are interested in the business outcome, as much as the method of transportation. As we’ve developed our own products over the last couple of years, such as Unily Intranets, we’ve focused passionately on this principle. Simply put; informed customers + great product + managing customer success + measurable results = destination selling. This is precisely why we believe passionately in software PLUS services, to ensure that our customer reaches the destination that they set out for (and to arrive in style!)
Now Try It At Home
Content Marketing isn’t just a great way of telling the world how great your business is. It can also be used to shape the agenda in your own organization, just by using your own intranet. It can be done through a variety of media like video clips, engaging stories, blogs or illustrated features but no matter how you do it, it’s a fantastic way to shift opinion or garner support for a new initiative with a subtle approach.
Whether you’re selling a solution to a customer or an idea to an employee, I recommend getting in early to make your point before the window closes. Stop fighting the price war and remember the pen is mightier than the sword! For an award-winning intranet platform, our company Unily, creates exceptional SharePoint intranets where you can sow the seeds of change from within.