We are all familiar with aggressive sales techniques and have all been on the receiving end. We have had people try to push products on us, trying to sell something as quickly as possible and for the highest possible price. When this happens, we are likely to feel manipulated, annoyed and even offended. We intuitively resent and resist having the hard sell foisted on us.
The “Solution” Selling Approach
We should remember this resentment when we plan our sales approach with prospective customers and look at ways to avoid getting that sort of reaction from them.
One way of accomplishing this is to use what is known as the solution selling approach. That is, you focus on selling them something that meets a need – a solution rather than a product. This approach has two significant benefits: one for you and the customer and one for the business. For you and the customer, it means taking much of the pressure and discomfort out of the selling process. For the business, it means developing a long-term relationship with customers who will improve their lifetime value – and that can be worth many hundreds of times the value of any individual sale.
How Solution Selling Works
Solution selling is a ‘soft sell’ technique. It works through building a relationship with your prospects based on understanding their needs. This turns the traditional selling approach, based on the sale of a product with certain features, on its head. Now the emphasis is on coming up with a product that has just the right benefits to suit the needs of this particular customer. To do this you need to get to know the customer’s needs, and which is the core of the solution selling technique – putting time into getting to know the customers need.
Steps Of Selling
Successful solution selling depends on paying attention to some basic presentation techniques and developing a consistent approach. Systemizing this process is a key way of getting to feel comfortable with it and ensuring it goes right. These steps include:
Step 1: Approach
The actual conversations with prospects in your target market group begin before your first face to face meeting. By letting them get to know you through collateral material describing you, your company and your offerings, these materials provide assurance about your knowledge your product or service and how it meets a prospect’s needs. Before you have even a preliminary conversation with a prospect, it is essential that you clearly communicate what attributes make your product or service unique or desirable, and why the prospect should want what you have to offer. You will find it a lot easier to make a sale if you have communicated the solution to their need by demonstrating the quality and value of the product or service you are selling.
Step 2: Identify Needs
This step consists of the actual meeting with your prospects, asking them questions, uncovering their needs, giving them additional information about your product or service, and determining how it fills their needs.
In this step, you use your rapport building skills to get the prospect engaged and open to talking about their business. Meanwhile, you will be listening to the needs they express and how you can offer solutions to them. Don’t hurry this step. People are going to buy for their reason, not yours, so you need the time to find out what those reasons are. You need to build a rapport with them and ask discovery questions.
Step 3: Providing Solutions To Needs
Once you have ascertained that there is a good fit between you and the prospect, you can propose how your product or service would correctly solve a problem or handle a need. By understanding the features and benefits of competing products or services, you can also prove how your solution is different and going to be more useful.
Step 4: Dealing With Objections
The thing to do is make sure that you fully understand the objection. Let the customer elaborate and precisely, define their concerns. Use objections constructively to continue building the relationship and remember, sometimes it is best to walk away from objections than try to sell something a prospect is not convinced will solve their problem. It is better to have a no sale than a bad sale.
Step 5: Asking For The Business
However, if you think this solution would be right for you and the customer – ask for the sale! You can focus on building trust through any number of meetings, but if you do not finally ask for what you want, the sale, then you are missing the point of the whole exercise.
Step 6: Follow Up The Sale With Service
Bear in mind that making a sale is only the beginning. So safeguard your relationship by dealing proactively with any issues or complaints. You need to show the same sensitivity that you did during the sales process. For example, when customers have complaints, acknowledge their problems and apologize or express regret, even if you are not sure that you are to blame. Let customers vent, if they need. Take immediate action to address customer concerns. Try to surprise the customer by how well you meet their concerns and get the relationship back on track. This will build trust, and that is an important part of cementing a relationship.
Summing It Up
So, in summary, solution selling is based on understanding your customer’s needs. You will gain that understanding partly through research and staying in touch with the market. However, mostly, you will gain understanding through the personal relationships you establish. It sounds simple, but most of us get wrapped up in what we are selling, rather than what the customer needs. Listen carefully, determine your customer’s needs, and adapt your business to fit those needs. Try viewing customers and prospects in a different light; not as just someone to sell something. See them as partners in your continuing profitability, and keep it that way by showing how you are useful to them by helping them solve their problems. These principles have always worked in selling, but they are even more critical in today's highly service oriented market environment.