What is solution selling?

Briefly put, solution selling is a matter of selling solutions. This is a contrast to old days’ strategies revolved around simply selling products. When you apply a solution selling strategy you sell a solution to a problem, and that helps you to differentiate your products and offers from your competitors’, because your solution is inimitable, whereas your product most likely is not. The practice is closely connected to value-based selling, because it is a matter of providing your clients with a unique value proposition.

The traditional solution selling approach can be boiled down to four steps: Define your market, find the need, find the pain, then sell solutions. To succeed, your sales reps need to ask buyers a lot of questions to uncover their challenges and needs, and then be able to demonstrate how your solution can address these needs and create value.

Have we seen the end of solution selling?

Solution selling has remained a widely acknowledged sales strategy over many years, but it is definitely not the same as back in the day when it was first introduced about 30 years ago. Perhaps the most significant and disruptive change of the concept came in 2011 and in 2012. In 2012, a Harvard Business Review article written by Brent Adamson, Matthew Dixon and Nicholas Toman proclaimed “the end of solution sales”. Two of the authors, Brent Adamson and Matthew Dixon, had the year before published the bestseller The Challenger Sale, which unveiled some astonishing insights about sales rep performance.

The Challenger Sale begins by pointing out where traditional solution selling falls short: It places a too heavy burden on both the customer and the sales rep. Solution selling heavily relies on the sales rep asking a lot of questions and the customer getting very involved at an early stage of the buying process, where customers do not even perceive any value of the solution yet. This causes what the authors refer to as “solution fatigue”.

Enter the Challenger sales rep!

The sales productivity study, which the findings in The Challenger Sale rely on, shows that every sales rep falls into one of five profiles: The Hard Worker, the Lone Wolf, the Problem Solver, the Relationship Builder and the Challenger. What may come as a surprise to many is that the best performing profile is the Challenger and that the one who performs the worst is the Relationship Builder. The reason for this is that the Relationship Builder has a service-mentality, is ineffective and do not help customers reach their goals, whereas the Challenger teaches and pressures customers and help them change their behavior to create value.

The characteristics of the Challenger profile lays the foundation for the “Challenger Selling Model” presented in the book. This model is comprised of the three parts Teach, Tailor and Take control. These three Ts are the advice other sales reps should strive to live by in order to become Challengers: Teach your customer about new business ideas and ways of thinking, Tailor your sales process to the customer, and Take control of the sale. Successfully applying this model in your sales team enables your sales reps to master complex sales in any business environment. As the authors state in the book: The Challenger is the solution selling rep of not just today but also tomorrow.

Would you like to learn how software can boost your solution selling strategy? Napp is a sales enablement platform that helps you implement a solution selling approach where your sales reps challenge their prospects. With the platform you can arm your sales reps with adaptive presentations via your own app, which allows sales reps to take control in meetings with prospects, teach them in an interactive and engaging manner while tailoring presentations in real time. Contact us to learn more about Napp and what the platform can do for your company.

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