Jim Dicso is President and Chief Revenue Officer of SundaySky.
Recently, Harvard Business Review ran an article with an unambiguous headline: “The End of Solution Sales.” The piece detailed the evolution of sales from a practice that pushes product toward one that delivers insight and “avoids the trap of established demand.” In other words, the sales team must become a purveyor of disruptive ideas that create real value for customers.
In order to advance in this climate, sales pros and job seekers alike need to embrace this new paradigm and move beyond the era of solution sales. What will it take to thrive in an era focused on insight selling — rather than solution selling? These three tips are a good place to start.
Appeal to the C-level decision-maker
If you are introducing a disruptive idea, C-level executives are traditionally most receptive and always able to reprioritize priorities and budget to pursue these ideas. Mid-level employees execute strategies and initiatives developed in the C-suite and have grown comfortable putting together their own solutions based on available technology, often without the help of traditional solution sales reps. Yet there’s little point in trying to sell them on insights. These contacts often don’t have the authority to make decisions about more significant purchases that will change the way the company does business.
If you’re introducing a disruptive idea, your audience should be a C-level decision-maker. This is the experience our sales staff had as they introduced our SmartVideo solution for retargeted advertising. We are introducing performance advertising — delivering a measurable increase in orders and revenue — in an environment that is traditionally focused on brand advertising — time spent by a relevant audience watching a video ad. Our message is, “We will outperform your brand advertising while out-branding your performance advertising.” The chief marketing officer can drive his organization to pursue this approach, while the brand advertising team and performance advertising teams both have their own agendas that we would threaten.
Develop the opportunity and set the decision criteria
Insight-based selling targets latent demand — business problem and/or solution approach that isn’t currently being considered, while solution-selling is focused on influencing the decision criteria for a planned decision. In a solution selling process, the customer is trying to “normalize” the vendors using a criteria matrix and often the deal hinges mainly on price. If done well, the insight-sales approach creates the demand, defines the criteria, establishes a compelling event and sets the price point. Often the deal is closed without even negotiating price.
For example, with our SmartVideo bill solution, SundaySky targets a reduction in billing-related phone calls, a known business problem in the telecommunications vertical, with a personalized video that explains the bill, which is a new approach to resolving this problem. We target the business problem and only introduce the solution in the context of the problem being prioritized as critical by C-level execs.
Pitch strategic value and return on investment
If you’re selling a new way of doing business, be ready to demonstrate the strategic value of such a shift. The return on investment has to be even more compelling than in solution sales, since the purchasing decision goes beyond monetary or product matters. You’re asking your contacts to become change agents in their organizations, so show the ROI, but make sure to include the strategic imperative that link company goals and strategy.
For example, one of our large customers uses the video bill solution to reduce inbound calls. We were able to prove via a control group study that video drove a seven-figure annual reduction in costs associated with billing calls. In addition, via calls-to-action in the video, we were able to drive adoption of value added services like self-serve tools and paperless statements. Also, via a survey appended to the video, we were able to assess customer experience. This company is trying to compete in the market based on quality of customer experience. Our C-level sponsor was quoted as saying, “We are investing in SmartVideo to drive a great customer experience and adoption of value-added services and we’re paying for this investment via the reduction in calls to the call center.”
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of BusinessNewsDaily.