Your customers don’t know what they want.
I’m not trying to insult your customers. I’m sure they are very intelligent people. The problem is that most buyers don’t arrive on your doorstep with a list of product specifications. Most don’t think in terms of bits and bites or features and functionality. They are looking for a solution to their problems.
People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill.
They want a quarter-inch hole.
— Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt
This may be one of the most famous quotes in marketing. It’s a succinct and brilliant way to illustrate that customers are buying results – not products or features.
A solutions company is oriented toward solving customers’ problems
When your marketing and sales strategy focuses on point-products, your customer relationships are transactional. You provide a widget, they pay. Done. You can easily be replaced by a faster, cheaper, newer model.
In contrast, a solutions company doesn’t focus on each product as a means to an end. While the solutions you sell can include specific products and services, the individual elements within are interconnected. They are built as a system, in which each element relies on the other to achieve success.
Evolving from a product company to a solutions company isn’t an easy shift. It requires a new mindset from marketing, sales, and executive leadership.
Are you ready?
Marketing: As you develop content, ask yourself:
Why will someone spend money for my product or service?
To create solutions-oriented marketing content, you first need to understand the motivations of your buyers, their desired outcomes, and roadblocks that may prevent them from being successful.
With most of a buyer’s journey complete before they ever talk to a sales team, solution selling actually begins with inbound marketing. By creating content that speaks to a buyer’s motivations – and marketing your content so buyers can find it – you’ll position your potential solutions within a meaningful context.
Once your solution sales team is engaged with a prospect, they are going to need additional content with fresh insights and data to add value to a sales call. This type of content helps your sales team earn a buyer’s trust and legitimize the solutions they recommend.
Sure, you’ll probably also need some product-focused content that outlines specifications and compares features. But, keep that in your arsenal for later-stage prospects who are already hooked on the results your company can provide.
Sales: How can you match your buyers to the “right” solutions?
In a solution sale, the sales rep’s job is to help prospects define their problem.
Instead of launching into a conversation about your latest and greatest product, a solutions-focused sales team starts by asking customers what they are trying to accomplish.
- What is driving your interest right now?
- How have you tried to solve this issue in the past?
- How will you measure your success?
Each customer has slightly different goals and different challenges. By listening actively and understanding their individual needs, you’ll be able to recommend solutions that may include multiple products, or a combination of products and services.
Leadership: Back up your sales and marketing
If your marketing and sales team is primed but the rest of your organization isn’t ready, then a solution sale will fall apart like a house of cards.
You need to build frameworks and processes that support a solution sale, from customer databases to billing systems. The compensation structure and incentives must eliminate product fiefdoms and encourage people to work together.
Being a solutions company means creating a culture that solves customer problems, from top to bottom. Doing it well increases your revenue potential and builds customer relationships for the long haul.