Does the following presentation sound familiar?
We have the solution to meet your needs. We will tailor our products and services so that they fit your reality precisely. Our price is reasonable and we'll provide excellent customer service.
That quote represents the move from selling products to selling solutions, and it's a version of what the vast majority of all companies say to their prospects. Perhaps you've said it to yours.
But if you're still selling that way, you're missing the boat... the one that recently crossed over the horizon, into the 21st century.
The way most companies are selling solutions just doesn't work in today's business world. Things have gotten so complex that most customers can't even comprehend what their problems are, let alone distinguish between you and your competitors.
And, too, many salespeople are out there making smoke-and-mirrors claims, simply re-labeling a collection of their products as "solutions," when in reality the customer is not able to connect those solutions to their business. (When they do buy the "solution," 80% are dissatisfied with the value results.)
Solutions offered by most companies fail to deliver real value for a variety of reasons. Maybe the product or service itself doesn't deliver on the promise made. Or the customer is unable to properly implement it. Or the customer is able to implement the product or service, but his or her expectations still aren't met. Not that the reason matters in the end. Unless you can define, address, and connect with value on your customer's terms, you lose.
The answer is to quit selling your solution as you would sell any other product and start selling like a "business advisor," a job that requires the diagnostic skills of a doctor. You must help customers unearth and comprehend their most compelling problems. You must help them recognize the pain they're experiencing in the absence of your solution, anticipate and respond to problems they will face in the future, and help them manage the pain of change they will no doubt go through as they implement your solution. You must help your customers provide greater value to their customers. In short, you become an indispensable source of business advantage.
Jeff Thull is president and CEO of Prime Resource Group (www.primeresource.com) and the author of Exceptional Selling: How the Best Connect and Win in High Stakes Sales (September 2006), The Prime Solution: Close the Value Gap, Increase Margins, and Win the Complex Sale (Dearborn Trade Publishing, 2005) and Mastering the Complex Sale (2003).