What Is Solution Selling?
Solution selling is a type of sales methodology that focuses on a prospect’s needs to recommend products or services that will best solve their problems. In other words, it takes a different approach and focuses on selling a ‘solution’ to the customer’s pain points rather than selling the product alone.
Michael Bosworth first put together the solution selling framework in 1975 and introduced it to the corporate world in the 1980s. Bosworth documented the behavior of the best salespeople at Xerox, and these collections of notes and experiences evolved to become the solution selling strategy.
When Is Solution Selling Used?
Solution selling is a customer-centric approach. It helps with customers’ specific problems. Sometimes, the prospect might not even be aware of the fact that a problem exists. In such cases, the sales reps become valuable as they can help the prospect understand the situation and also help find a solution.
Typically, the two signs validate the need for solution selling.
i. When you are dealing with highly customizable product
Solution selling is ideal for companies with highly customized products and/or services where it is implemented as a tailored solution to a specific requirement. For instance, a company that offers business automation solutions generally creates a bespoke bundle for each customer based on their needs and budget.
ii. When customers need a high level of support
For instance, companies dealing in SaaS products have to offer continuous support to their customers to ensure the smooth operation of the software. So for products or services that require a high level of support, solution selling is the best approach to acquiring a customer.
The Difference Between Solution Selling and Product Selling
Product selling is all about convincing your customers that your product is better than your competitors. The classic example is when a sales rep goes door-to-door to sell the products. Here, the sales reps focus on ‘what’ you have to sell, not on ‘why.’ The sales pitch revolves around the product features and pricing without any consideration of the prospect’s actual needs.
Whereas solution selling takes a look into prospects' prevailing circumstances and tries to provide a consultative selling approach. Rather than discussing the product features and specs, the sales reps try to identify the prospect’s problem and try to find solutions for their challenges.
Why Should You Consider Using Solution Selling Methodology?
Solution selling uses a tailored approach where the sales reps try to get insights into their prospect’s current situation and goals. It allows them to be empathetic towards them and step into the buyer’s shoes instead of simply trying to get involved on the surface level.
This shows customers that you are genuinely interested in solving their problems rather than just trying to sell your product. It helps build a great rapport with the customers, resulting in a long-lasting relationship.
The Cons of Using the Solution Selling Method
Just like any other sales methodology, solution selling also comes with its own disadvantages.
For starters, solution selling strategies are tailored to each prospect’s needs. You can’t predict their behavior, and so the sales reps can’t have a script to guide them through the conversation. It solely depends on the rep’s skills to ensure that it doesn’t feel like an interrogation round and provides a smooth flow of conversations.
Besides, this sales methodology requires a lot of research. They need to first understand exactly what the prospect is looking for and then make sure their product or service can solve their customer’s issues. It can delay the entire sales process.
Steps Involved In the Solution Selling Process
There are six essential steps to the solution selling process.
1. Know your product or service
For effective solution selling, it’s essential to empower your sales team with your product or service knowledge. Otherwise, they will have difficulty mapping a prospect’s needs with your solution.
The more you equip your sales team with the features, values, and USPs of your product or service, the more confident they will be in selling it.
Create a digital repository of information that is comprehensive and easy to understand. Try avoiding fancy or complicated language. Mostly you will see companies building a knowledge base that both customers and sales reps can access. It should cover every detail of your solution that might be useful for the customers.
2. Recognize your prospect's concerns and issues
Once your reps are familiar with your product or service, approaching your prospects and identifying their needs and challenges is the next step. But they shouldn’t just go and make a call without having a basic understanding of what your customers need.
Ask your sales reps to prepare a list of questions that can help highlight the prospect’s pain points. Compile a list of questions that will help determine what your leads need.
Always ask open-ended questions, as it can help gather more information from the prospects. It also assists reps in assessing a prospect’s willingness to pursue the conversation.
Here are a few sets of questions that you can use:
"What seems to be the problem with the previous product you are using? Why is it not working for you?"
"What immediate or long-term goals do you have for the organization?"
"How can you achieve your goals faster? What have been some major challenges you've faced?"
"How have these issues grown from the time of the first occurrence?"
Once you have been able to grab the prospect's attention and interest, you can branch out to more specific questions. For instance –
"From our discussion, I see that your competitor is doing better in this particular area. What steps have you taken to strengthen or improve this aspect? “
"Our research has shown us that such problems are common in an industry like yours. What are you doing to improve your product? Do you think implementing these solutions will help?”
"You are using this product/service/suite. Why are you looking for a different solution?"
Learning as much as you can from your prospect gives you an edge. It helps you sell better and with more confidence.
3. Qualify your leads
Not every prospect will fit into your criteria. That’s why it’s crucial to qualify your leads and not waste time pursuing the wrong ones.
Here’s a quick checklist to help you shortlist and qualify your prospects. The checklist could include key questions such as:
- What does the prospect need?
- Does your solution map with your prospect’s issues?
- Is your prospect willing to solve the problem?
- Does your prospect have the authority to make a decision?
4. Show them what they are missing
Here, the sales rep’s job is to educate their prospect that they are missing a solution to their problems. For that, sales reps need to show how their business will benefit from your service. It could be in terms of reduced operating costs, increased efficiency, good return on investment, or any other KPIs.
With the right tools and knowledge, the rep can educate the prospect and urge them to think of a solution. The solution-selling framework helps with this process.
You can even share the success stories of past customers in a similar situation. It helps them understand why they need a solution to achieve their goals.
The idea is to establish the notion that they are missing a solution – and your next step is to help them decide that your product or service will be the best first for their problems.
5. Provide ample value to your leads
The solution selling framework closes deals by finding selling points that work. The rep must pick the right selling point and translate it into a value proposition. Value is often hidden in the solution that the prospect may not be able to see right away.
A good salesperson would demonstrate why your company’s product or service is the best solution to their issues. This is the right time to pitch your solution.
To present value, you can always share previous case studies, testimonials, and a product demo to help them make decisions. Here are some points you should cover that will push a prospect further down the pipeline:
- Highlight the monetary impact your solution has on the customer. How much would it cost? Is there a better use for their money instead?
- How much time will they save? Will they be able to put that time to better use? There's a direct correlation between time and money; highlighting this connection is important.
- How does your product/service change your customer's life? How does it make it easier? Will it make them shine in front of their bosses? Will it be beneficial to them as team members? All customers love products that have personal and business value.
- If the prospect says 'Yes', think about further action. After the sale, will the product/service continue to help them in the future? What changes can they expect in terms of different variables?
6. Close the sale
The final stage is where you need to overcome sales objections. The best way to handle objections is to create a list of common objections raised in the past and how they were being solved.
A good trick is to steer the conversation around those common objectives so that you can maintain the conversation while also addressing the concerns even before they bring them up.
The solution selling framework provides a foolproof plan for the reps to show the customers how their solution can be effective. It helps demonstrate how your solution will make the prospect’s life easier by solving all their problems.
A key strategy here is to give your customers a glimpse into their future. When they do not focus on the immediate cost but look at the long-term benefits, it can convince a prospect to close a deal.
The solution-selling framework has helped most sales reps to close deals. If done right, you even find a loyal customer for life. Once an individual puts faith in a rep, they trust the person, and a relationship is forged.