By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Vendors are so focused on “solutions” they overlook an important fact:

Solutions are opinions and the only opinions that matter are the buyers’.

Consider how much credibility sellers have if at the start of a call they state:

“We’ve got the solution for you.”

I hope you agree buyers would find this to be a presumptuous and self-serving statement.

Superior sellers are patient and realize there’s work to be done to help buyers visualize solutions.

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A mentor once told me Sales is a “hurt and rescue” exercise.

First, sellers must help buyers realize they have latent needs to achieve desired business outcomes that have inherent value. Some examples: Increase revenue, increase margins, reduce downtime, etc. Within CCS®, buying cycles begin when buyers share goals (or problems). This is a watershed event as it means sellers has been deemed to be sincere and competent.
Unfortunately B and C Players lack patience. Once goals are shared they prematurely jump to “solutions” by saying something analogous to: “Here’s what you need.” The irony is they’re often right but have limited credibility because buyers don’t understand why they can’t achieve goals or they would have already done so. It’s analogous to a swimmer 50 yards offshore refusing a lifejacket. Put that same swimmer a mile offshore and struggling and he/she would hold onto a lifejacket like it was their firstborn.

Once goals are shared, A Players have the wisdom and patience to realize they must do a diagnosis to uncover barriers to achieving goals that exist in the buyer’s current process that can be addressed with specific capabilities within their offerings. Doing diagnoses at this point accomplishes several things:

  • Sellers further display their competence.
  • Buyers realize the downside of not having the seller’s offering.
  • Based upon buyer responses the seller can offer only those features/capabilities that are relevant to achieving the desired business outcomes.

As with the swimmer a mile offshore the buyer has been better prepared to want/accept the suggested capabilities. Rather than being sold the buyer can be empowered to achieve the stated goal and understand the potential value of doing so. Asking diagnostic questions and listening to the answers allows sellers to help buyers define what their “solutions“ are.

A “solution” must be the buyer’s opinion.

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The only way sellers can be confident of solutions is by asking questions. The ultimate question asked is:

“If you had (capabilities) could you achieve (the goal)?”

A “yes” from the buyer validates the solution.

Buyers are confident in a seller’s recommendation if:

  • They understand how their current ways of doing business are flawed
  • Know the capabilities needed to address them
  • Have a sense of the potential value of achieving the goal.

Buyers appreciate being empowered to achieve a business outcome rather than being sold products.