In order to truly sell solutions (not just your products/services), you have to be willing to NOT sell when your solution doesn’t fit.
When is the last time you told a prospect your solution (product/service) is not a fit for their particular need?
If you claim to sell solutions, this has to happen. If you’ve never done this, you’re not selling solutions, your selling your product/service to anyone who will listen to your pitch.
Your product can’t be the solution to every single customer need you uncover. Don’t you think this is the resistance to solution selling overall? Sales has a very hard time NOT selling. If you truly listen to the customer (diagnose) before you start selling your solution (prescribe) – you’re going to uncover things that have absolutely nothing to do with your solution.
What do you do with that discovery? You have just uncovered an unmet need of the customer – this is a valuable piece of information. What’s your next move?
Unfortunately the most common response to this scenario is to force it. Sales refuses to accept there isn’t a fit and they force the need into their solution. They use their selling skills and make it seem like the product was built to solve that exact problem. Sales feels a temporary win, everyone behind sales is set up to fail (operations, technology, and the customer).
What amazes me is how often this happens; and because there is a short term gain (top line revenue); nobody looks at the long-term pain. How do you create an incentive plan that drives sales behavior to find relevant needs that your products and services were built to solve? If that is your goal, your sales team has to have the courage to admit when something doesn’t fit. The goal of sales isn’t to sell everything; the goal of sales is to find needs that you can solve with your existing suite of products and services.
What should your sales team do with this valuable information about customer’s unmet needs? The number one way to build trust in a sales role is to truly be solution focused – even if that solution isn’t your product or service. If you know of a product/service that can meet the customer’s need – a referral at this point builds trust in both directions. The customer trusts you because you’re not trying to force them to buy your solution, the company you refer to trusts you and will be more likely to refer your product when it’s a good fit.
I know it sounds a bit altruistic, but the alternative is so painful. Too many implementations are setup to fail out the gate because there wasn’t a good match between customer need and product solution. No amount of implementation magic can change that equation; it always results in lots of frustration on both sides (customer and vendor).