What you are about to read may sound like heresy at first. But if you open your mind, you may see something that will allow you to improve your sales results. If you can see it, you can multiply your effectiveness and make it easier to create and win new opportunities. Sometimes, improvement requires removing something instead of adding to what you are already doing.
Your love and devotion to your "solution" keeps you in the One-Down position. There is a certain type of salesperson who believes their "solution" is something more than a product or a service because it "solves a problem." Calling the "solution" a product or service doesn't do anything to reduce its effectiveness.
Another type of salesperson will suggest that they don't consider themselves a salesperson. Instead, they suggest that they are a "problem solver." When asked about their problem-solving, they point at their solution and its supposed ability to solve the client's problem.
If you are brave enough to try this experiment, you'll recognize how little the word solution does for your client. Simply say, "This is how our product will solve your problem and provide you with the better results you need." Steel yourself while you wait for your prospective client to object, saying, "Hey! We don't want to buy your product. We want to buy a solution."
The Limit Imposed by Your Love for Your Solution
One of the reasons salespeople produce poor results is because they love their solution, believing it provides differentiation, while also creating value for the client. Without intending to hurt anyone's feelings, your solution is unlikely to provide the differentiation you need to create in the sales conversation. And even though you can talk about your "solution," two things are true. First, your client can never experience the value of your product or service until they buy it. Second, details about what you sell aren’t what the client needs in early sales conversations.
Salespeople have been brainwashed to believe their company and its "solution" are differentiating factors that create value for the client, so they don't recognize the importance of the sales conversation itself. The sales conversation is the only vehicle you have to create value for the client before they buy your product or service. Next time you are sitting across from a prospective client, scan the room to see if your company or your solution happens to be there with you. (Don't make it so obvious that your client wonders what you are looking for in their conference room.)
What's worse is that because you have been convinced that your "solution" is what differentiates you and provides the value the client needs, you don't recognize or act as if you are the only entity in the room who is responsible for creating value for the client within the sales conversation.
The Advantage of the Salesperson Who Sells a Commodity
I am certain your company is a great and wonderful enterprise. I am positive your leadership team is comprised of wonderful people that care deeply about their employees and their clients. They may even be innovators and leaders in their industry. I need no convincing to believe your "solution" is better than those offered by your competitors. Yet, while I believe these things about your company and your "solution," I believe the same about your competitors.
A salesperson who sells a commodity isn't saddled with the baggage that comes with believing their company and their products are different and valuable to the client. Instead, the commodity salesperson must create value in the sales conversation by relying on their knowledge and experience to solve the client's problems, and by providing their clients with counsel, advice, and recommendations.
It can be jarring to discover that people who sell a commodity are often much better salespeople because they have none of the crutches used by salespeople who sell a “solution” that they believe is unique and different. Salespeople selling a “solution” wind up putting their clients through the same conversation as their competitors, often in the same order. Most every company in the “solution” group attempts to differentiate itself in the same way as their competitors—by focusing on the “solution” instead of on the knowledge they provide the client during the sales conversation.
The Thought Experiment of Not Loving Your Solution
Imagine your prospective client has a real problem, one that is difficult to understand and correct. After speaking to a number of salespeople, all of whom were unimpressive, they call you and ask you to consult with them and help them improve their results in some critically important area of their business. Unfortunately, you don't have a "solution" to sell them. In this case, you are only selling your advice. How would you sell if you didn't have a "solution?”
Instead of a "solution," you would be left with teaching the client what they need to know about the decision they are considering, why they are struggling to produce the outcomes they need, what factors they need to consider, and how to weight them, and how to go about making a significant change to their business. At the end of your conversation, you are going to provide the client with a document that provides them with your recommendations.
Imagine that your client is scoring you on the value you create in a meeting. On a scale of 0 to 10, how high might the client score a conversation about your company and your solution? How much more value would the client find in the conversation like in the scenario above when you had no solution to sell?
It may surprise you that it is easier to convert a first meeting to a second meeting when you make the first one valuable for your prospective client. You should not love your solution more than you love the sales conversation. By loving the conversation, you make it much easier to sell your product or service—or as you may still prefer, your solution.