Not all products or services are created equal in terms of how you sell them. And, not all customers are created equal, in terms of how sophisticated or needing they are for a product or service. And, selling into different levels of an organization, often requires different types of selling techniques, in order to get their attention. This post summarizes the three most typical selling techniques used today.
Product selling is exactly what it sounds like: selling the advantages or features of a specific product or service. With product selling, the questions are predictable from customers, products are used in similar ways by customers, prices are typically set, marketing materials are standardized and salespeople typically require a lot of formal training. Product selling is typically sold to low-to-mid level employees of the customer’s organization.
Solution selling goes beyond simply selling products or services. Instead, you are trying to focus on a customer’s pain point, and address how your product or service is the best solution to that pain point. And, the bigger the pain point (e.g., can dramatically reduce cost, improve customer service, or open up new revenues streams), the more needed your solution will be.
With solution selling, customer questions are unpredictable and typically need a lot of research, the solutions vary from customer to customer, prices can vary substantially based on the level of services provided, sales reps customize marketing materials to the specific customer needs and the salesperson typically trains themselves in order to get a deep understanding of a situation. Solution selling is typically sold to mid-to-high level employees within a customer’s organization.
In 1998, Neil Rackham published the popular book “SPIN Selling”, to help create a process for solution selling. SPIN stands for the four sequential steps of the process, and the right types of questions to ask in each step: (i) Situation questions where you collect facts (e.g., simply learn where the customer is today); (ii) Problem questions to identify problems (e.g., what is not working in the current situation); (iii) Implication questions to learn consequences of problems (e.g., quantifying the scope of the problems); and (iv) Need-Payoff questions to identify the value payoff of a solution (e.g., quantifying the economic lift from the solution to the problem—new revenues, lower expenses, better customer service benefit). This process gives your salesperson a playbook to work from in selling your solution.
Solution selling is not to be confused with insight selling, which has become more broadly used in today’s era of big data and big analytics. With insight selling, the pain point is unknown to the customer. You are helping your customer to identify a problem that they did not know even existed, opening a white space for you to easily sell your product or service. With insight selling, your salesperson is actually playing the role of business coach or strategy consultant to the client, holding their hand through the process of buying and implementing your solution. Insights are typically sold to the high-to-executive levels of a customer’s organization, the people who care the most about taking their business to the next level of success.
The Common Mistake Startups Make
So, as you can see, sales is not a “one size fits all” solution. You need to employ the right tactics and hire the right type of salespeople, to fulfill whichever of the above techniques is most relevant for your business. And, the biggest mistake most entrepreneurs make: they are so focused on selling their product, that they often forget to think about the solutions and insights their product offers its customers (which could make it a much easier sale). So, do a critical assessment of your needs, and more importantly your customer’s needs, and plan accordingly.
Be sure to read my companion piece, The 1,024 Types of Salespersons—Hire the Right Ones, to make sure you recruit the best sales team for your specific needs. As you will learn, not all salespersons are created equal, and hiring the right person can make or break your success.
For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.