HBR: The End of Solution Sales – Some Important Insights on Sales

Over the weekend one of my long term technology selling friends sent me this article on Solution Selling, a recent article from Harvard Business Review (Click).  In his email he noted, “This is exactly what we are seeing in our business – read it.”  So I did.  A few notes I made in the first section of the article reinforce exactly what I have written in my recent book, From Vendor to Adviser

  1. 60% of a typical purchasing decision (researching solutions, setting requirements, benchmarking prices) is done before a company ever contacts possible suppliers…in other words, the “Value Add” VARS supposedly contribute is no longer needed – the client is way ahead of you before you even begin.
  2. The solution sales process of asking open-ended questions is more annoying than it is helpful given the research that has already been conducted…something I have been saying for over a year now.
  3. Reps need to engage earlier.  In my book, I talk about high-end consultants and the need to get involved in strategy using the four things buyers buy.  I cover this in an audio format in great detail in my 5 Essential Topics for Moving From Vendor to Adviser.
  4. Instead of going after companies with a need, look for companies in transition, accelerated growth, etc.  Come in with predictable needs and educate them on possible direction – help them get there by providing the tools and processes they need to succeed.
  5. Target Asset Owners…the article doesn’t use this terminology, but the person they describe is exactly this person (the one I describe in my books).  Forget about coaches and advocates, and get involved with change agents who are driving the company forward – in some cases pushing the company where it doesn’t really want to go, in order to gain a profit.

The writer makes the statement, “companies need to rethink the training and support provided to their reps.”  This is so true.  Vendor funded product training is useless in this scenario.  I’m not saying you don’t need to know your products, but I am saying you can’t just know your products.  Getting involved early requires more than an early phone call.  It requires the ability to advise.  The trusted adviser is both trusted and able to advise…the latter is the harder one to learn.

© 2012, David Stelzl



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