Disputing the Demise of Classic Sales Strategies
solution selling. Customers today have more transparency than ever in the pricing of products and services, and online research makes it possible for customers to narrow their areas of interest before committing to a purchase. These prospects are the "low-hanging" fruit of the marketplace. What solution selling teaches us is how to sell to prospects who have not yet entered the marketplace but should be seeking a solution of their "dormant" issues, pain, and challenges. I strongly disagree that "solution selling"—the process of helping to identify customer needs and propose solutions that add value to the customer—is dead. On the contrary, in today's market, customers need help more than ever from experienced salespeople who can help them find solutions to complex issues that, at least right now, a Google search cannot compete with.
If online technology makes it possible for customers to find their own solutions and name their own price, why do we need salespeople at all anymore? Many people assume that salespeople are no longer needed in the early stages of the sales process—that customers can do their own research and evaluate options on their own. But the truth is more complicated. According to recent research from the Information Technology Sales and Marketing Association, 70 percent of B2B buyers want to engage with salespeople early in the sales process. The reason? B2B purchases tend to be higher value and higher risk. If you're a consumer looking for a $100 hotel room online, it's easy to do your own research and make a fast decision without guidance from a salesperson. If you're an executive making a $500,000 investment in new IT infrastructure, you want to get some help and advice along the way.
Salespeople can play an important role in helping customers understand their options, learn more about the implications of their purchase decision, and identify solutions for problems that they didn't fully realize or anticipate. By taking a broad look at the customer's business, by empathizing with the customer, and by adding value along the way, salespeople can show that their role is still very much vital in today's sales world.
Listen to vendors, suppliers, and thought leaders with a skeptical ear and pay attention when they describe their "breakthrough selling solution." Look at how it is really applied in real-world selling. The truth exists somewhere in the space between hype and reality.
Gregg Schwartz is director of sales at Strategic Sales and Marketing, a B2B lead generation company established in 1989.
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