A client of mine sent me an article recently from the Harvard Business Review titled The End of Solution Selling. It is a long, well-researched piece which challenges the status quo.
A key premise is that customers now are investing a significant amount of time and energy before they engage salespeople to diagnose their own problems and identify the solution. Salespeople, who historically have focused on finding a problem and identifying the solution, now increasingly are seen as unnecessary and redundant.
Many salespeople view themselves as facilitators of a buying process, which they frequently allow the prospect to design and control. They spend much time explaining why people should buy from them instead of helping the prospect identify the potential flaws in their logic and decision-making. They get lost in the details and miss the opportunity to discuss the big picture, including industry change, disruptive events and how this aligns with or may undermine the potential customer’s strategy.
Yesterday, I spoke to a recently hired sales leader. In our conversation, he shared that while improving the effectiveness of his sales force was an important priority, the bigger issue was getting senior management to understand that “sales” is as important as operations and that great products don’t sell themselves. This comes from a company with over 500 employees.
Developing salespeople, from presenters of a value proposition to proactive hunters with great consultative selling ability, is the biggest and most important challenge facing the sales industry today. The days of building a relationship and presenting a solution are gone forever. Unfortunately, most salespeople don’t know that a seismic shift has already taken place and they’re not prepared for what’s coming.
Great salespeople love when prospects push back. They relish the idea of being challenged and engaging prospects. They understand that their real value comes from dialogue and their ability to change people’s thinking and perception. In Baseline Selling terms, they spend much time between first and second base, building SOB quality. Remember that SOB means that the prospect is paying more attention to you than anyone else because you have helped them discover new challenges, opportunities and concerns which need to be addressed.
Which percentage of your salespeople are proactive hunters who excel at consultative selling? How many lean in when their prospects push back, not out of frustration but because they naturally engage in honest two-way conversations? Lastly, how effective are your sales leadership skills in developing your salespeople in these critical areas?
Kurlan & Associates, Inc. is holding a two-day Sales Leadership Intensive in Boston on October 3-4. The program is for CEO’s, President’s, GM’s and Sales Leaders committed to excellence.