I see the following problem frequently:
“People try to sell people products”
Selling solutions instead of products is a shift in mindset that focuses on addressing customers’ problems or needs rather than just promoting or selling a product’s features. By embracing this approach, businesses can build long-lasting relationships, foster customer loyalty, and increase sales by being able to target solutions to problems.
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There are many ways to sell, but in this case, let’s focus on two of the most common approaches: product-based selling and solution-based selling. So we can contrast, let’s use an example company that sells Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.
In a product-based selling approach, the salesperson would focus on the features and specifications of the CRM software. They might talk about its user-friendly interface, the number of integrations it offers, or the advanced reporting capabilities. The salesperson would primarily emphasize the features of the CRM without necessarily connecting them to the specific problems or needs the customer is facing.
For B2C and smaller items, impulsive behavior can be exploited and may work here. However, for larger purchases (e.g., B2B), this approach is far less effective (if it is I’m concerned about who’s making buying decisions).
Problems with this approach:
- The features mentioned may not be applicable and/or relatable to the customer -> mismatch
- Even with applicability, the features mentioned may not address current pain points and/or problems for the customer
- The customer may not feel “heard”
- Lacks any empathy for the customer, intended or not
In a solution-based selling approach, the salesperson would start by asking the customer questions to understand their pain points and the challenges they face with their current CRM system or lack thereof. They might discover that the customer is struggling with manual data entry, has difficulty tracking leads through the sales funnel, or experiences low user adoption due to a complex system.
Based on this understanding, the salesperson would then present the CRM software as a solution to these challenges, demonstrating how it can automate data entry, provide real-time visibility into the sales pipeline, and offer a more user-friendly interface that encourages adoption. The focus would be on addressing the customer’s needs and helping them achieve their desired outcomes.
What happens if they won’t answer questions?
Propose some common pain points other customers have stated and see if they apply. This will help you narrow down their pain points and get them talking.
Why Focus On Solutions
People buy solutions, not products.
Think about it this way…
Do you buy a new driver because of a feature like a 60x carbon twist face or because it’ll help you hit bombs and the fairways more? You buy it to hit bombs.
Do you buy a self-driving vehicle because it has 48 sensors and a neural network or because it makes commuting more manageable and safer? Do you buy DevRev because it has cool AI or because it can make your life easier and eliminate noise?
The theme is evident in these examples: people buy solutions, not products.
How to Get Started
Research and understand your target audience
Learn about your target customers, their industries, and the everyday challenges they face. Know their specific pain points and how your offerings can address them. These may vary by persona, industry, company size, and other demographics. The more you understand who you’re speaking with, the better you can understand their potential pain points and how to solve them. However, as much as you think you know, always ask questions to confirm.
Ask the right questions
Develop a set of open-ended questions that encourage customers to share their challenges, objectives, and priorities. Practice active listening, taking note of customers’ concerns, and showing empathy. In some cases, they may not be open to answering questions. In that case, use your knowledge of the audience (point 1) and ask if they face any of the mentioned challenges.
Develop a problem-solving mindset
Focus on identifying and understanding the customer’s needs, problems, and desired outcomes rather than simply promoting the features of your products or services. Be prepared to tailor your offerings to each customer’s unique situation. You won’t be able to help them in all scenarios, and that’s OK; just be honest about where you can and can’t help fix their problems. By being honest you can gain credibility and open up potential opportunities in the future.
Clearly articulate the value proposition
Connect your product or service to the customer’s needs and pain points, demonstrating how your solution can help them achieve their goals or overcome their challenges. Use specific examples and highlight the benefits, both short-term and long-term.
If the customer is having problems hitting bombs, don’t lead with something like a 60x carbon twist face, but rather that you can help them hit bombs (the what) with proprietary technology like a 60x carbon twist face (the how).
Remember, match the solution to a pain point (the what) and reinforce with the how.
Establish credibility and trust by demonstrating industry knowledge, offering personalized advice, and sharing relevant experiences or case studies. Be honest about the capabilities of your product or service and avoid overselling. In almost all cases, being upfront about limitations will garner respect and establish long-term trust. Saying no to some items is also okay and in some cases will help gain additional credibility.
Position yourself as a problem solver or trusted advisor rather than just a salesperson. Offer insights, recommendations, and support that go beyond your product or service, such as industry best practices, tips for implementation, or resources for ongoing education.
Follow up and maintain relationships
After the sale, continue to engage with your customers, offering support and guidance as needed. Check-in periodically to ensure their needs are being met and identify opportunities for up-selling or cross-selling. Products don’t always last, but relationships do.
- Ask your customer questions
- Figure out what pain points they have
- Provide solutions to them
- Don’t focus on the product first!