By Karl Sharicz
As CX professionals, we are largely compelled to align with our respective organization’s sales and marketing functions, and for good reason—they are generally the ones carrying out the strategy and business goals established by leadership and guiding the rest of the organization forward.
All is well and good except when it comes to product-centric organizations believing and acting as if whatever they manufacture and sell or offer as a service is perfectly aligned with client needs and wants. Economist Lawrence Abbot observed way back in 1955 that, “What people really desire are not products but satisfying experiences. People want products because they want the experience-bringing services which they hope the products will render.” A profound statement, especially considering this was made over 60 years ago.
I’m using the terms service and product interchangeably here to illustrate a point. Think of service as an intangible product that, through an exchange, delivers a tangible benefit to the customer. In a sense, both products and services can be considered as products from the provider’s perspective. It’s simply a matter of form.
Earlier in my career, I had the opportunity to serve customers in a pure sales capacity with all the challenges that accompany a sales role, including quotas both achievable and unrealistic. But that’s a topic for another blog.
During my tenure in sales, I was introduced and trained in what is called the solution-selling methodology. I was selling complex and highly customized laboratory robotic and automation systems into the biotech and pharmaceutical industry. Essentially, there was no product to demonstrate or even discuss until the process to be automated was fully understood by me. Once I translated that over to the engineering team, they would then develop a concept for me to present back to the customer, to show them what it might look like, and how much it might cost. Overall, a highly intangible sales process for sure, accompanied by an extremely long sales cycle. It became clear that we needed to learn how to sell a “solution” to the customer, versus a “product.”
The solution-selling idea was originally developed in 1975 by Frank Watts, at Wang Laboratories. It was later adopted by Mike Bosworth, who founded a sales training organization of the same name based on the concept.
My sales colleagues and I were trained by the Bosworth organization back in the mid-90’s and the original book, Solution Selling: Creating Buyers in Difficult Selling Markets, published in 1994, remains available today. Bosworth and Holland have also published a more updated version of the concept in a book published in 2010 titled, Customer-Centric Selling, Second Edition, which is worth checking out as it addresses more of the current trends in the digital sales and business environment.
Wikipedia defines solution-selling very succinctly as a sales methodology, where rather than just promoting an existing product, the salesperson focuses on the customer’s problems and addresses the issue with appropriate offerings (products and / or services). The problem resolution is what constitutes a “solution.” Solution-selling is usually used in sales situations …read more
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