Management Strategies — Secrets to Solution Selling
Fortunately, we were later able to attract, develop and retain a staff of multi-million dollar producers. The underlying difference was that we replaced “transactional” salespeople (who sold strictly on price) with “solutions” salespeople.
Solution selling is a mindset, not an ability. Solution sales and solutions salespeople can be created. The essence of solution selling is helping your clients and prospects execute their strategic vision.
What is a strategic vision? In its simplest form, it’s devising a strategy for taking your company from where it is to where you want it to be. In some form, that vision involves increased sales and/or increased profits. No small task in today’s competitive environment.
Solution selling involves delivering demonstrable, tangible solutions to increase your clients’ sales or reduce their costs (i.e., increase their profits).
Let’s first explore the change of mindset that’s required for solution selling. Most salespeople focus on “explaining” their capabilities and how these capabilities will help the buyer. This is the wrong mindset. What’s required for solution selling is to ask the client leading questions and then to LISTEN. At the onset of a meeting, the only thing you know for sure is that the prospect or customer is interested in increasing sales and reducing costs. You must listen in order to identify potential sources of pain and areas of opportunity to help them meet their goals.
Changing a company’s culture from one that is selling transactionally (quoting a job, being awarded the job and then delivering it) to one that is actively generating new opportunities by demonstrating ways to increase sales or reduce costs, usually presents the greatest challenge.
Success can be achieved in a number of ways. The most effective approach is to target a specific industry segment (vertical market) of which you have a thorough knowledge and understanding. Analyzing your best clients and their industries is a great place to start. If your establishment is like most, you will find that you have an affinity for specific vertical markets such as financial services, insurance, pharmaceuticals, or travel and leisure.
Once you’ve become a true industry expert able to provide value-added solutions to that market niche, you’ll find you can increase the breadth and reach of your customer base and that geographical limitations no longer exist. It is entirely possible to eventually serve a national or even global client base.
A word of caution: It is essential to address confidentiality. You must clearly communicate that the knowledge acquired by your firm within their industry segment is a benefit to the client that adds tremendous value to the relationship. However, under no circumstances is proprietary information of any type divulged. Nor should you utilize the same support personnel on common industry accounts.
It’s true that solutions salespeople are tough to find. However, here are two techniques that work particularly well.
Approach your prospects or clients with whom you would like to do more business and ask them to recommend a salesperson who they respect and feel comfortable with. If you are able to eventually hire this individual, there’s a good chance you will get other opportunities and additional business from the person that made the recommendation.
Look for people with marketing and communications experience from the demand side of the niche that you are attempting to penetrate. Here are some of the attributes you should look for:
• the individual should be well networked within the market niche;
• comfortable dealing at the “C” level;
• outgoing, personable and presentable; and
• insightful, intelligent and possessing a high degree of empathy.
The first thing that most printing companies look for in a solution salesperson is “industry experience.” Unfortunately, that’s exactly what makes the task of finding them so difficult since nearly all of the sales reps with industry experience were trained to be trans-actional salespeople.
In fact, lack of industry experience is preferable. Think about it. In the short term, your company can support the salesperson with the depth of knowledge that exists within the organization. Over the longer term, they can be trained to “your way of doing things.” This way there are no bad habits to unlearn.
Knowledge of a specific market you’re attempting to penetrate is most critical. Understanding the challenges faced by companies competing in this space is the first step in helping to guarantee your firm’s sales success. PI
About the Author
Mike Kind is the founder and former owner of The JKG Group in Boca Raton, FL. He currently is managing partner of MyKind Advisors (www.mykindadvisors.com) and a partner in The Next Level Group (www.the-nextlevelgroup.com), which focus on taking companies from where they are to where they want to be. He is also the author of “Re-energize Your Printing Business,” a best-selling book within the printing industry.