Solution Selling Review

Highlights

  • Solution Selling shifts from selling standard products to offering customized solutions, often as part of a bundle or custom mix of products, to solve a buyer's exact problem.
  • This sales methodology creates differentiation, promotes up-sell, and shifts the customer conversation away from product specifications to relevant and personalized buyer benefits.
  • It is best used for complex sales where the buyer is unaware of how to solve a problem and the seller can apply product options, configurations or customizations to achieve customer specific outcomes.
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

Solution Selling is all about offering a custom solution to a buyer's problem. Rather than selling a conventional product, the seller positions the product as a tailored solution to the buyer's specific problem.

It's a shift from pushing a product to performing a diagnostic exercise that uncovers pain and prescribes a tailored remedy.

This method was created by Mike Bosworth in 1983 based on his sales method experience at Xerox Corporation. He began licensing this method in 1988 and in 1993 published Solution-Selling: Creating Buyers in Difficult Selling Markets.

Bosworth sold the methodology in 1999 to one of his affiliates, Keith Eades, founder of the sales training company Sales Performance International (SPI). Bosworth would eventually resurface in 2010 with a new sales methodology and published book called Customer Centric Selling.

Solution Selling uses a discovery process built on three types of questions (open, control (aka closed) and confirming) and three types of information (reasons for pain, scope and impact of pain, and capabilities needed to resolve the pain).

The questions and information are visually depicted in a grid called the 9-Block Vision Processing Model.

Solution Selling 9 Block Vision Processing Model

The investigative sequence occurs in three steps:

  1. Diagnosis. No doctor would prescribe medication without a firm patient diagnosis, and the same logic applies to a salesperson advising the buyer of a solution to resolve their pain. Diagnosis begins with open-ended questions and then applies alternative scenarios to filter down to the top causes of the customer's pain. Each of the three steps ends with customer confirmation. Do not advance to the next step until the confirmation is clear and agreed to.
  2. Impact. Once the pain points are clearly identified, the seller explores the scope and impact of each one. Unlike the prior step where most buyers are intimately familiar with their pain, they are often less knowledgeable or interested in ramifications outside their own purview.

It's up to the seller to demonstrate how the broader implications will benefit both the buyer and his or her company. The seller will repeat the progressive sequence of beginning with open-ended questions and filtering down to specific impacted people or parts of the organization. The salesperson will identify the magnitude of each impact and who owns each pain point.

  1. Visualization. As with the prior two steps, the seller will begin with open questions, then guide the customer to identify the highest value benefits of resolving their problem. This is generally where the seller will promote or lead the buyer to benefits uniquely delivered with the salesperson's product. This is also where the seller creates a sense of urgency. The end goal of this step is to use confirmation questions to paint a clear vision of what success looks like.

Best Fit

Consider this sales methodology for the following scenarios:

  • Complex sales where the buyer is unaware of how to solve a problem and relies upon product knowledge and expertise from a salesperson.
  • Selling products or services with options, configurations or customizations as ways to achieve client specific benefits.
  • Selling a conceptual or intangible product such as technology or professional services.
  • Selling sophisticated products to non-expert buyers.
  • Selling complex products that are difficult to learn or fully understand without expertise.
  • Selling to risk averse customers.
  • Selling an innovative or first-to-market product.
  • Selling a commodity product in a highly competitive market as a method of finding unique value and differentiation.
  • Selling against competitors with lower cost solutions or better brand recognition.

Takeaway

Solution sellers demonstrate credibility with industry knowledge and product expertise. They then engage customers in an investigative dialogue that helps the buyer surface the most salient problems and the seller craft a tailored solution.

This process is grounded in the selflessness of the salesperson who avoids pitching a product and instead facilitates a fact-finding session to identify the right solution for the customer.

This sales methodology value is exemplified with the old sales quote, "People do not buy from salespeople because they understand their products but because the salesperson understood their problems."

See the Solution Selling review with strengths, weaknesses and recommendations where this sale methodology best fits.

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