One outcome of solution selling was that sales organizations and their teams began to believe that their solution was what would win them deals. With a blind faith that their solution was the best choice for their clients, they identified the client’s problem and offered their solution, positioning it against a competition’s solution. There are still true believers who are faithful to their solution, even though it counts less than it did in the past.
One negative outcome of this sales approach is that it often causes salespeople to do poor discovery. They believe that their solution is right for every prospective client they meet, so they don’t bother to learn about their clients. Another problem is that a true believer proposes their solution too early in the sales conversation, often pitching it in the first meeting.
The problem isn’t that the true believer loves their solution, but they shouldn’t convince themselves that it is enough to win deals, especially competitive deals. In the United States, most industries have many more companies than necessary, and most of these companies offer equally outstanding solutions. This is a transactional approach that may work in some sales, but it isn’t often successful in a complex sale.
The Reason Your Clients Treat You Like a Commodity
The reason your prospective clients treat you like a commodity is because many companies sell what you sell. Your contacts are drowning in emails from salespeople, some selling the same outcome you sell. Those salespeople believe their solution is better than yours.
Your contacts are likely to believe you and your competitor have solutions that will produce the results they need. When this is true, it is easy to believe that buyers and decision-makers didn’t understand how your solution was superior to what your competitor offered. Your product manager may have told you that the solution is so good it practically sells itself, but buying the hype can cause you to lose deals you should have won.
Here is one truth in sales: You will never win all the clients you want, but you will win all the clients that want you. Here is another: You are the value proposition. Your sales experience is often a greater variable to winning the new opportunities you create.
Your Contacts Want Business Acumen
Whenever you see surveys from buyers, one recurring theme is that the salesperson knows too little about their company or their industry. Salespeople who lack an understanding of the client’s business landscape think they need only to elicit a pain point and problem, then let the solution take over. This lack of business acumen is a detriment to salespeople, especially those with greater knowledge of sports than business.
In a world with the internet, ChatGPT, and satellite radio, it has never been easier to acquire business acumen and information about your prospect and their industry. Watching or listening to CNBC every morning can give you a business education.
A side hustle, even something like roasting coffee beans or brewing craft beer, will help a salesperson gain business acumen. They will start to think like a businessperson.
Your Contacts Want Understanding
In the legacy approach to discovery, the salesperson asks questions to better understand the client’s needs. While this is a good practice, it leaves out the client’s need to learn and better understand the nature of their problem and how to improve their results.
Your contacts need conversations and questions that allow them to view their challenge through a higher-resolution lens. A salesperson can provide this by sharing their insights and a perspective shaped by their experience. Many salespeople miss that this conversation creates far greater value than pitching your solution.
Your Contacts Want Certainty
We are living in the ACDC environment, and we will be here for the remainder of our lives. ACDC stands for accelerating, constant disruptive change, which creates uncertainty and instability.
It is difficult to make important decisions when you are uncertain. When people are unsure, they fear that taking action might make things worse. Many try to wait out the storm, thinking things will eventually become more stable.
A good and honest salesperson with a great solution and good intentions will fail unless they can have the conversations that give their prospective client confidence. Unless a salesperson can create some sense of certainty, they will easily lose to a salesperson who makes sense and is able to create confidence and certainty, even if that salesperson is wrong.
A Word About Your Devotion to Your Solution
I want you to believe that your solution is exceptional and that it can and will help your clients succeed. But I want you to temper that devotion to make room to be customer-centric and commit to providing your contacts what they need before you ever speak a word about your solution. By depending on the solution to win the deal, you open an opportunity for a One-Up salesperson to eat your lunch.
You are racking up points by using your business acumen, your experience, and your perspective as you have valuable sales conversations with your contacts. All the work you put into this conversation causes your contacts to want you. When they want you, they want your solution. When they don’t want to buy from you, they will not buy your solution.
The Evolving Sales Environment
Our environment is accelerating, leaving behind those who are not aware of the rate of change. How we sold in the past is not right for today’s buyers. Other salespeople recognize that things are changing but they are reluctant to make any change, even one that would improve their results. The longer you wait to address this reality, the more difficult it will be for you to win deals, especially with enterprise-level clients.
Reconsider that your solution is the single variable when buying from you and your company. One of the more important variables now is the value creation that provides the sales experience that causes your clients to prefer you. When you get this right, clients buy your solution.