Many companies start out with one product and, over time, realize they are finding new ways to apply their products and skills as more of a customized solution. The same principle applies to start-up coaches and consultants who are providing their expertise and trying to “sell it” to other businesses in need. The problem is, the entire company, especially the sales team or even the business owner/coach, has grown up selling the product as a transactional event and not as a customized solution process.
One of the companies I consulted with was facing that very problem. After analyzing why the sales team was not meeting expectations, we uncovered several contributing elements. Let’s explore the top 3 factors which will help you shift your mindset from selling products to offering solutions:
Are you talking to the right person?
When selling a singular product or consulting service, it is most likely a component in a larger “ecosystem” of other connected pieces and systems. Therefore, your contact may only have authority to buy just that one small part. If you have a more comprehensive solution, ask yourself: does this person have authority to buy the larger value offering? Finding out who else is involved in the connected areas is critical. Ask your contact about challenges related to the bigger picture and who else might help you understand them.
Are you asking the right questions?
When you are selling products, most times you are focused on “How many do you need this week?” or “What does next year’s growth look like?” These answers help you estimate volume and adjust your pricing. However, with a solution your questions have to be focused on discovering the unknowns about what else is going on within the company. Questions of discovery start with wording, such as: “Tell me about…” or “Who else knows about…” They are open-ended and have nothing to do with how many gadgets they need. Instead, you are focusing on learning about the facets of their business that potentially touch the solution you are hoping to sell.
Are you answering the right questions?
In fact, are you answering any questions at all? Or are you putting “features and benefits” out there in hopes of sparking interest? When your contact is accustomed to you leading with features, they will ask questions accordingly. Here are a handful of questions you may get and examples of how you might redirect them into a “solutions” conversation:
Customer: “What does the XYZ tool do? How does that work?”
Solutions redirect: “Tell me about a situation where you’ve used similar tools…”
Customer: “I just want you to tell me if you can solve this problem.”
Solutions redirect: “Help me understand more about the problem. What aspects of it keep you up at night?”
Customer: “I’m used to this current product. Why should we change?”
Solutions redirect: “What makes you most comfortable with the current product? What would a new solution look like which would help you feel comfortable?"
Customer: “I love your products! I’m sure this new solution will rock! When can we get started?"
Solutions redirect: “I’m so happy to hear you love our products. What current challenges will be better addressed with something more than our products? I want to make sure this is a good fit for you.”
Of course, this new discovery questioning can be taken too far:
- “D” styles might very well literally say, “Just bottom-line me, are you interested or not?”
- “I” styles may want to ask about everything but the solution.
- “S” styles may not ask enough questions, fearing they might be intruding.
- “C” styles might ask questions beyond what is relevant.
Having one of your team members join you at the client’s location or meeting may help balance out these possibilities. It also introduces your contact to someone new, helping them feel more heard and important. When you plan on offering solutions, it will require adding new competencies such as discovery questioning and understanding the personality and behavioral traits of your prospects so you can avoid derailing the sales conversation.
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