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The Evolution of Solution Selling Methodology

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If you’re working as a sales professional, your primary task is to bring in sales. There have been many methodologies on how to sell products and services over the years. Product selling — straight-up convincing the customer to buy a product — has been the norm for ages. When that wasn’t enough, sales eventually moved from the product to the solution offered through the product. 

Solution selling is also on its way out — succeeded by value selling. Solution selling vs. value selling: What's the difference? We’ll take a close look at what solution selling is, what its shortcomings are and how value-based selling is the next natural step in the evolution of sales. 

What Is the Methodology of Solution Selling?

Solution selling focuses on how the product solves the customer’s problem. Rather than focus on the product, this method of selling is centered around the outcomes of using the product. A solution seller takes time to find out what unique issues the prospect is facing, unearthing their root cause and presenting their product as the best tool that solves that problem. 

Since solution selling relies heavily on solving a customer’s pain points, it often draws a lot from consultative sales. The sales representative has to ask plenty of questions to not only understand but empathize with the customers' needs and provide a relevant package for them. Most solution sellers often have to come up with different tailored packages for different customers to cater to their unique needs. 

Often, the prospect might not even be aware of a problem they’re having or an opportunity to improve their processes. As part of the sales process, a sales representative is often responsible for helping them identify their problems, highlighting the importance of addressing the issue, and pointing to the solution. 

Some of the benefits of solution selling include:

  • A customized approach to sales: Since the sales rep is constantly finding out what the customer’s challenges are, they tend to offer solutions that are best suited to solve the problem rather than fit the prospect to an existing product. 
  • Deeper engagements with the customer: As you take the time to find out your prospect’s problems, you build a rapport and a business relationship that may help in closing the sale. 

This sales methodology became popular in the 1980s and has been the go-to for many salespeople since then. However, as products and customers have evolved, several shortcomings have emerged from the solution selling methodology. 

What Is Wrong With Solution Selling?

Solution selling was perfect in the decades past since customers either didn’t know they had a problem or acknowledged that they had a problem but didn’t know how to solve it. Sales agents honed the art of finding these problems and engineering solutions for them and thus could comfortably close the sale. 

However, today’s prospect is much more informed. There is plenty of information accessible to anyone these days. Procurement teams come armed with data and can quickly diagnose problems and define their solutions without your help. Anyone connected to the internet can easily research and compare features, prices, and solution packages. In other cases, the customer might not feel like change is necessary and will not be interested in your solution. They might also not be convinced that using your product will bring enough results to justify the investment. 

Solutions are no longer enough to sell to today’s customers, and that’s where value-based selling comes in. The big shift has been from selling solutions to providing value to the customer, which is the basic premise of value selling. Rather than just providing customers with a solution, the emphasis is on how to create and communicate value to the customer. 

What Is Value-Based Selling?

Value-based selling focuses on how your customer will get value from purchasing your product or service. Like solution selling, value selling still keeps an eye on the customer’s problems and needs but centers on the benefits of using the solution rather than the solution itself. 

With value selling, your prospect can measure what value they get from buying your product with real numbers. This methodology allows customers to quantify what their problem costs and demonstrates to them that your product or service is worth their investment. Some of the ways to highlight the value your product or service provides your client include:

  • Money saved by adopting your solution: If you can demonstrate that using your product will save your prospects money, your product proves valuable to them. 
  • Money made through the product: Many customers hold highly anything that raises their bottom line, and if that’s your product, it will surely appeal to them. 
  • Risks reduced through your product: Customers also care about any risks reduced by your product, as this can also impact the bottom line.
  • Qualitative value: Sometimes, you may not have precise numbers that using your product can bring. You can still provide value by showing how solving their problems using your solution benefits the company. 

Value-Based Selling vs. Solution Selling

On the surface, value selling and solution selling are similar in that they both:

  • Emphasize on and start by finding out the prospect’s pain points
  • Aim to provide value to the customer
  • Both concentrate more on the customer than the product

The main difference comes in how they present the product to the prospect. The solution seller focuses on how the product solves the customer’s pain points. The solution takes center stage, and the salesperson aims to prove to the customer that their product has the right features that can fix their issue or help them reach their goals. 

Value selling goes beyond solving the problem and goes into the results of using the product or service. A value seller is concerned about the real-life impact of the product, especially the return on investment (ROI) implementing the solution brings. 

Perks of Value-based Selling

Value-based selling can help your product to stand out to your prospect among the competition. This is because you spend time not only finding out their pain points and providing a solution, but you go a step further to describe exactly how they can get value from using your product. 

Value selling done well can also aid your customer relationship management (CRM) strategy during the sales process and down the line as a customer. Since you’ll spend a lot of time with the customer as you seek to provide value to them, you will naturally focus on how to make their experience better. This builds trust in your business from the beginning and translates to a better customer relationship. 

Should You Stick With Solution Selling or Make the Change to Value Selling?

Making the shift from solution selling to value selling might seem like a complicated and taxing process, especially if you’re already achieving some measure of success with your current methodology. Value selling indeed requires more research and time spent with the prospect trying to demonstrate value. You would also need to develop a strong value selling framework within your team to make the most out of this methodology. 

However, value-based selling sees the best results in the modern sales landscape. Solution selling only provides a picture of what the future is like, while value selling provides both the vision and the steps to get there, with real-world proof that the system works. Transitioning to value-based selling helps you craft more compelling pitches to your prospects, helping them to overcome their resistance to change while solving their problems. 

How Do You Approach Value-based Selling?

You need to have a good value selling framework to properly integrate this methodology into your sales process. This framework will help you stick to your goals and achieve successful value-based selling. To build a successful framework for your value selling, you need to consider doing the following.

Understand Your Unique Selling Point (USP)

A clear understanding of the product is essential to communicating value to your prospects. You’ll need to understand what sets your product apart and what value you can provide that your competitors do not.

Research Your Prospects

Clients’ needs are central to value-based selling, so you’ll need to combine your product’s USP with a deep understanding of the prospects to successfully implement a value selling strategy.

Summary

Solution selling has been a successful sales methodology for a long time. However, as competition continues to increase and the line separating products becomes thinner by the day, finding differentiation in the market can be a challenge. 

Value-based selling helps you to stay ahead of the curve. Rather than explain what features your product has like everyone else, you focus on how you can provide unique value to each customer, which sets you apart from the rest. Your prospects no longer feel like they are just being sold a product. They understand that you care for them and are dedicated to making them succeed.

You can achieve successful value-based selling by doing your research on the prospects, understanding your unique selling points, and identifying the value you can provide the client.