Solution selling is about digging around in the problems/challenges of your customers – from their perspective.
Some people are saying, “You can’t sell print anymore, you have to sell solutions” others are saying “you can’t be just a printer anymore; you have to be a marketing services provider.” Words are cheap – what does this mean?
My approach has always been, first ask a lot more questions – until a) you understand or b) you understand that the person saying you have to sell solutions has no clue what that means ;-) Walk away gracefully.
I’ve blogged in the past about the “marketing service provider” idea, I’ll keep this post to the idea of “selling solutions.” Next time someone says that in a webinar, writes that in an article, or says it at a live event – ask the question, “How do you define the word solution?” My dad used to say, the first step to common understanding is defining the terms, it makes everyone aware that they actually have to back up their ideas with real understanding.
Here’s one definition of a solution – a potential answer to a customer’s challenge or problem. This leads right into the next term to define – “problem/challenge.” I love this line of thinking because in order for you to effectively sell solutions – guess what you have to do? You have to understand your customer and what problem your customer is trying to solve. Do you see how this leads you away from pixels, resolution, paper stocks and into the realm of communication for various purposes: promotion, compliance, education, etc… What problems are your customer’s experiencing that print and print related communication services might solve?
Solution selling is about understanding what your customers or prospects are trying to accomplish. A solution sale is more about asking questions and listening with a lot LESS talking about you, your business, or the printing process.
What about technology and the solution sale? Today time is the most precious resource – for everyone. It’s no longer enough to provide an excellent product, at a competitive price, with great service – you have to do all that AND make it brilliantly easy for the customer to interact with your business. Do you provide an excellent product, at a competitive price, but your lack of an online procurement system makes it impossible for your customers to see their spending history without multiple interactions with your part-time accounting department?
Technology enables you to add value around your core product; I’m not talking about miscellaneous features like QR codes. I’m talking about the core values of ecommerce:
- Self Service and On Demand
- Structured approach to procurement (budget control, spending limits, etc…)
- Access to Transactional Data (transactional history, reports, etc…)
None of these things have ANYTHING to do with print. It’s not about print – it’s about easing procurement. I’ve said this many times before “web to print” needs to be renamed “print ecommerce” with about 80% of the focus on ecommerce. Please don’t tell me “my customers are happy with our high touch service” they don’t want to do ecommerce, they like transferring files over FTP, sending multiple e-mails, and making several phone calls about each order.
You might be right, the individuals fulfilling those tasks today might be fine with the process, you know that it’s extremely inefficient and that it can be you who offers a better way. Alternatively, you can sit back and wait for a competitor to introduce a technology enabled procurement process that delivers the same quality, at a competitive price, while consuming half of the customer’s time.
Solution selling is about looking beyond your core product and your perspective – it’s about putting yourself in the shoes of your customers and figuring out solutions by digging into THEIR problems. You have the knowledge of what can be done with print and print related communications – you need to put forth the effort to learn their business in order to be in a position to extend your service offering to solve their problems.