Published October 24, 2012 | Updated July 11, 2019
Solution selling is the art of solving customers’ problems by specifying and providing the perfect mix of equipment, services, consumables, and financing. When properly executed, this approach reduces costs and increases profit for the customer. Solution selling also helps to build long-lasting relationships that result in a steady and ongoing stream of equipment transactions. Unfortunately, not every equipment vendor practices solution selling effectively. The reason is they simply don’t know how to do it.
A common approach of many sales training programs is to sell features and benefits. This is an essential part of selling, but it’s not the only part. Moreover, it’s probably not even the most important part of the sales process.
That’s because while the features and benefits provide a solid framework for the sales discussion, this kind of sales discussion often leads nowhere. Salespeople frequently come to the table with so much good information about features and benefits that they can’t wait to share it with the prospect. The sales discussion turns instead into a pitch presentation (two totally different things) and ultimately fizzles out. The customer loses interest and the sales process stalls in place.
Consider this: astute business buyers don’t like to be “sold”. The more aggressive the salesperson gets, the less likely a successful transaction becomes. Even if the equipment is a perfect fit for the prospect, a one-sided pitch presentation will probably not be enough to convince the prospect to proceed.
Instead, a more effective approach is to make the sales discussion just that – a discussion. It’s a two-sided conversation with one clearly focused objective: finding the prospect’s pain, or the specific problem that needs to be solved. The salesperson accomplishes this by asking good questions and then following up with even more good questions. This discovery phase is arguably the most critical piece of a successful transaction.
In fact, particularly in the early stages of the sales process, the salesperson should only be talking about 10% of the time and should spend those valuable minutes asking the questions that keep the prospect talking. This interaction should last as long as it takes to get all of the information necessary to create a sellable solution.
The amazing thing about this process is that when a prospect speaks for 90% of the time during a sales discussion, they almost invariably walk away with a favorable view of the salesperson. While counterintuitive, that’s the way people are, and it’s how the business of selling works.
More importantly, this approach clears the path for solution selling to begin. If the proper questions have been asked during the sales discussion, the salesperson should have a very clear idea of the customer’s problem and how to solve it. This is also where a skilled salesperson can display their mastery of the equipment line’s features and benefits and can now “map” those features to the identified problem to define the solution.
Once the equipment solution has been developed, it can be presented to the prospect. But an added benefit of the initial sales discussion – if it was properly conducted – is that the sales rep has established credibility and developed a solid rapport with the prospect. Presenting the solution should be relatively easy.
The first step to solution selling is to recap the problem in order to ensure that both parties agree on what is wrong, as well as the scope of the situation and its cost. From there, the salesperson presents the solution by explaining how a particular feature and its related benefit resolves aspects of the buyer’s problem. When done correctly, by the time the discussion is finished, the buyer has already decided to acquire the equipment. The only thing left to talk about is the price.
In some equipment transactions, this can be a critical part of the process because once the topic of money comes up, buyers often become a little more guarded. For that reason, it’s critical to include financing in the total solution package from the very beginning. By proactively addressing financing as an integral part of the solution, objections around money can be almost completely removed from the sales process.
The best way to do this is to find out as much as possible about the prospect’s budget and cash flow during the discovery process. With this information in hand, the salesperson can develop an appropriate solution and then use creative and flexible lease financing to present a monthly payment option that lies well within the prospect’s budget.
As a result, the salesperson has not only proposed a workable solution to the prospect’s problem but has also shown the way to pay for it. If this is done properly, any remaining questions on the prospect’s part typically relate to operational issues, rather than the price of the acquisition. Instead of a salesperson trying to “sell” equipment to a buyer, the experience is that of partners working out the details of an agreement.
There are two important lessons in all of this. The first lesson is that business buyers acquire equipment because they need to solve a problem, not because they want to acquire equipment. By discovering the problem they are trying to solve, you are halfway to a successful transaction.
The second lesson is that a person is more likely to acquire equipment if they know up front they can afford it. By introducing flexible and affordable financing into the discussion early on, the chance of closing the transaction increases significantly.