Here’s an excerpt taken from “The End of Solution Sales,” a recent Harvard Business Review article: “…one of the firm’s top sellers, who asked to give an RFP presentation, quickly commandeered the meeting to his own ends. The seller began with, “Here is our full response to your RFP—everything you were looking for. However, because we only have 60 minutes together, I’m going to let you read that on your own. I’d like to use our time to walk you through the three things we believe should have been in the RFP but weren’t, and to explain why they matter so much.
“The end result was the cancellation of the RFP process. The customer went home, as did the other two vendors waiting to present. The ‘star’ performer sales rep had succeeded in reshaping the deal to align with his company’s core capabilities and ultimately landed it. He had convinced the executives that they were asking the wrong questions by using an ‘insight selling’ strategy, revealing to the customer needs it didn’t know it had.”
Solution selling is out and insight selling is in, according to this piece. I found this article to be intriguing and thought-provoking, based on my hard stand that everyone in sales should have a consultative selling approach. Just to refresh our thinking around consultative selling, this approach is based on seeking customers’ needs/challenges, understanding their overall corporate objectives, and then fitting your services to bring solvency to those needs. My thought has been to care about the customer more than the services you are providing, in order to truly bring value to the complete organization.
The insight selling approach has a direct opposite approach that only “star” performers utilize, according to the HBR article: “Customers have radically departed from the old ways of buying, and sales leaders are increasingly finding that their staffs are relegating to price-driven bake offs.” The authors say the conventional solution-selling method is not as effective when calling on clients, and that the top-performing sales organization in any industry has “abandoned the traditional playbook and devised a novel, even radical, sales approach built on three strategies.”
Here they are:
• Strategy No. 1 is based on avoiding the trap of “established demand.” The opening scenario of this blog post provides an example of this strategy. It is when we approach our client with solutions and needs they have not thought of.
• Strategy No. 2 is based on targeting the mobilizers, not advocates, in an organization. Mobilizers are defined as the go-getters, skeptics, and teachers; advocates are the talkers who seem to act as the friend, guide, and climber. The authors believe the mobilizers help drive the deal based on influence; the latter three are advocates who can help obtain information, but don’t drive action.
• Strategy No. 3 is about coaching customers on how to buy. The authors truly believe we are in better position to guide a purchase through the organization, because sellers can anticipate the “likely objections” and the “cross-politicking.” The sellers are able head off problems before they arise.
I’m sure most of us can say we have used some of these approaches. However, to implement all three as part of a formal strategic process is the consideration. It has me thinking about reworking some of my age-old consultative selling practices in order to change with the movement of our new customer landscape.
Lisa Gardner, a former executive with both PepsiCo and J.C. Penney, heads up consulting and strategy development for OMS Strategic Advisors. Contact her at email@example.com.