In the Harvard Business Review (July/August 2012) there was a paper titled: The End of Solution Sales. I think every sales people should read that article. Here are some key points that we should always keep in mind;
- "The hardest thing about B2B selling today is that customers don’t need you the way they used to. In recent decades sales reps have become adept at discovering customers’ needs and selling them “solutions”—generally, complex combinations of products and services. This worked because customers didn’t know how to solve their own problems, even though they often had a good understanding of what their problems were. But now, owing to increasingly sophisticated procurement teams and purchasing consultants armed with troves of data, companies can readily define solutions for themselves"
- Star performers (1) put a premium on customer agility: Can a customer act quickly and decisively when presented with a compelling case, or is it hamstrung by structures and relationships that stifle change? (2) They pursue customers that have an emerging need or are in a state of organizational flux, whether because of external pressures, such as regulatory reform, or because of internal pressures, such as a recent acquisition, a leadership turnover, or widespread dissatisfaction with current practices. "Stars, in other words, place more emphasis on a customer’s potential to change than on its potential to buy. They’re able to get in early and advance a disruptive solution because they target accounts where demand is emerging, not established—accounts that are primed for change but haven’t yet generated the necessary consensus, let alone settled on a course of action."
- "One consequence of this orientation is that star performers treat requests for sales presentations very differently than average performers do. Whereas the latter perceive an invitation to present as the best sign of a promising opportunity, the former recognize it for what it is—an invitation to bid for a contract that is probably destined to be awarded to a favored vendor. The star sales rep uses the occasion to reframe the discussion and turn a customer with clearly defined requirements into one with emerging needs. Even when he’s invited in late, he tries to rewind the purchasing decision to a much earlier stage"
- "...in conventional sales training reps are taught to find an advocate, or coach, within the customer organization to help them get the deal done. It turns out, though, that this idealized advocate doesn’t actually exist. Each attribute can probably be found somewhere in a customer organization, but our research shows that the traits rarely all come together in one person. So reps find themselves settling for someone who has some of them. And when choosing an advocate, we’ve found, most reps walk right past the very people who could help them get the deal done—the people star performers have learned to recognize and rely on."
- "Most reps rely on a customer to coach them through a sale; star reps coach the customer."
You can read or buy copies from the article from https://hbr.org/2012/07/the-end-of-solution-sales
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