Solution selling has evolved with the Information Age

Information Age
Standard-Examiner contributor
THURSDAY , JUNE 04, 2015

Is solution selling really dead? Harvard Business Review published an article claiming the world of B2B sales has changed so dramatically that customers no longer are seeking “solutions” as companies now deploy sophisticated procurement teams and purchasing consultants that readily define solutions for themselves.

Solution selling was born in the early ’80s as sales reps became more adept at discovering customers’ needs and selling them solutions, generally complex combinations of products and services. The movement toward this approach was born from the premise that customers didn’t know how to solve their own problems, even though they often had a good understanding of what their problems were.

Enter the information age where more than 70 percent of a typical purchasing decision, including researching solutions, ranking options, setting requirements, and benchmarking pricing, have been completed before a customer even reaches out to a potential supplier.

In this environment can a salesperson truly expect to provide a solution where the customer in some cases has more information than the seller does?

Has selling changed? No question. Has buying changed? Perhaps not to the extent the HBR article claims. True solution selling isn’t so much about blindly leading with solutions that aren’t a perfect fit for the customer’s needs or interests. Solution selling in our digital environment is more about collaborating with informed customers that move toward mutually beneficial outcomes.

Solution selling isn’t dead, but it has evolved. High performance sales professionals are leading with insights that help their customers think through the key issues they face. More commonly, solution selling includes helping customers in an economic environment that faces never-ending changes. They collaborate with customers across the organization as opposed to a few direct relationships, and they help buyers understand how to be smarter in their purchasing decisions.

A good book for your sales library that speaks to this topic is “The Challenger Sale.” The authors argue that relationships and solution-based pitches are far less relevant in the information age. They also contend that rather than relying on B2B sellers to perform a needs diagnosis and problem assessment for them, B2B buyers are doing much of that research themselves. They note that relationships still matter, but that the currency of what constitutes a valued relationship has changed dramatically.

What is your view and how has the selling landscape changed for your business? Is the status quo no longer working or is it time for an overhaul on how you sell your current solutions?

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