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Solution Selling –Art or Science?

9 Jul, 2007 By: Steve Breault imageSource

Solution Selling –Art or Science?

Are you a great salesman? Most of us believe we are, right? For over 40 years
I thought I was just about the best. Selling has been my game since the age of
12 when I started pitching my superior lawn cutting services to every neighbor
within walking, or should I say, lawnmower pushing distance. I found it quite
easy to move a dollar from my neighbors pocket into mine. Selling was easy, or
so it seemed. Wow, did I have a lot to learn.

Today, my world of business choice, now commonly referred to as the Document
Management Industry, finds many of us unprepared and in a precarious position.
We are trying to transfer our standard sales strategies, often unsuccessfully.
You know, "the way we have always done it," to an environment that is far more
sophisticated. We are facing a public that demands us being better educated,
requiring more information, and expects us to solve complex problems using the
latest technology while keeping it simple and affordable. A new MFP is not the
total document management solution. It is time for sales reps to stop fighting
competitors over "lease payments" and start solving customers’ "overall" paper
management problems. To those who rise to the challenge, sales and self-esteem
will increase immeasurably.

Old Dogs Must Learn New Tricks

Experts agree, "failure to change" is tantamount to signing a death warrant.
Dealers who do not invest their time and energy to learn how to sell "solutions"
will, like the proverbial "old soldier," simply fade away. While hard to swallow
and perhaps even harder to believe, it is nevertheless true. Many dealers are
postponing the inevitable, and are often fearful of unchartered territory. Or,
simply stubborn and refusing to acknowledge or accept the new direction. Still
others have taken the plunge and affiliated themselves with a developer only to
learn that their new partner knows virtually nothing about their industry, has
inadequate "solution" training, overpriced products, marginal support and, in
some cases, even competes with them for sales.

I talk to dealership owners every day and I am saddened to hear that many are
still unconvinced, discouraged or disheartened by a bad experience. Some are
already trudging along the lonely track toward inevitable demise. Ignorance is
not bliss today, it is death. If this sounds familiar, do not despair, help is
on the way.

Sell Solutions, Not Technology

Customers are anxious to buy if you know how to sell solutions. It is really
quite simple. Dig in, get serious, stop procrastinating, find a qualified OEM
and strive to become your selling territory’s most proficient solutions
provider. The future in our business is enormous, but it starts with changing
selling strategy.

"To succeed in today’s demanding marketplace, not only must you have
exceptional interpersonal relationship and communication skills, you must also
provide valuable knowledge, experience and expertise to buyers. Selling as a
pure art form is giving way to selling as a science, while still leaving room
for creativity."

The Solution Selling Fieldbook

Keith M. Eades, author of The Solution Selling Fieldbook has, in my
analysis, created the most powerful and enlightening guide to successful
solution selling that I have ever read. This is a "how to and do" book and a
fantastic study-guide in a class of its own. Regardless, it’s not a book for the
feint- hearted. No, it is designed for the serious salesperson seeking a
step-by-step program. 

No Pain, No Gain…

Uncovering the customer’s pain is the absolute key to a sale. Eades states
that there are two basic types of pain:

Acute:  The customer recognizes there is a major problem that is having a
severe negative impact on the business.

Latent: The prospect simply is unaware any issues exist or where the
prospect has chosen not to deal with issues regardless of the pain. 

Identifying an “acute pain” prospect is easy. Ask open-ended questions and
the prospect will gladly detail every minute problem in hopes you can be the

Handling the “latent pain” prospect is far more challenging. This is where
the prepared sales rep gets to use all their skills and the greatest
satisfaction resides.

Many reps, including yours truly, have often spent too much time “building
rapport.” Eades has developed a “structured sales call model” that enables us to
quickly focus on building credibility with the prospect, motivating them to
retract the barrier shield and divulge their pain and its intensity.

Selling a solution is more akin to selling an intangible. Software solutions
selling is not so much about selling features as it is about easing "paper
management" pain. Every day hardware salespeople are experiencing growing
frustration as their "assumed loyal customer base" dissipates. Customers are
demanding full document management solutions "in their entirety." Selling a new
MFP solves just one part of a much more complex problem. To customers, all
hardware can start to look alike, but by presenting a total management solution,
you will win more business and keep your competitors’ tentacles off your

So, perhaps we can conclude that selling solutions is both art and science. 
The enormity of the opportunities over the foreseeable future is of such
magnitude that dealers cannot afford to hesitate one minute!

Lead the charge, select your software affiliate partner carefully, and do
whatever needs to be done to educate and train your salespeople. Insist that
your software provider offers more than just products.

Solutions  Selling Course

Using the power of Eades Solution Selling Fieldbook as a guide, companies
can learn new ways to guide their business to increased profit. Some companies,
including VircoSoft, offer their dealers an intensive eight week solution
selling course based on information from Eades book.

Isn’t it time to transform your own company’s selling methods? More insight,
stronger sales, and fewer problems can be had. Essentially, that’s what smart
selling is all about!

Steven Breault is the Founder and CEO of VircoSoft Corporation, Fairfax, VA.
USA. VircoSoft provides training, education, support and affordable knowledge
management software solutions to the Office Equipment and IT Dealer channels.
Learn about Pinnacle Knowledge Management System and the unique reseller
program. At 703 385-0101,
, www.vircosoft.com.

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