Why you can't sell a solution

Patrick Boucousis

Why You Can't Sell a Solution

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You can’t sell a solution. There, I’ve said it!

‘Whoa! You’re thinking. What is it I’ve been doing then?’

Well, consider this. From a Buyer’s perspective (which is how we Sellers should look at it too), a solution is what they buy, rather than what we sell.

Confused? Let me explain.

A ‘solution’ is what Buyers believe is of value in enabling them to achieve an outcome e.g. to increase revenue, reduce costs, increase productivity. Or on a more personal note, reduce work hours stress etc.

The operative word is 'enable', as solutions aren't the outcomes, they enable outcomes.

For example, say your desired outcome is a hole in a wall. A drill isn’t a solution. It is simply part of the solution. You need to apply it correctly by selecting an appropriate drill-bit, the right drill-speed, angle, pressure etc. Enabling all of that results in the outcome— a hole. The solution then is the sum of all those parts.

To Buyers, a solution is a source of value, which raises another concept. Value is received. Contrary to popular belief, it can’t be given, sold (by you for example), created or proposed etc (if you need convincing, watch my video ‘What is Value

If you doubt that, ask yourself why doesn't everyone buy the same things you do? It is because your perceptions are different to theirs.

The bottom line is that it up to Buyers to call something a ‘solution’, not us Sellers.

Now you might think that’s all semantics. It’s not. It’s a shift in mindset and perspective. Take that on board and your behavior will fundamentally change. To begin with, you’ll do a lot more asking and a lot less telling.

For example, instead of declaring that you have a solution (and trying to convince Buyers that it is), your curiosity will kick in and you’ll engage with Buyers to understand what value looks like to them and then collaborate with them to create a solution (their solution) that enables them to receive that value. That then becomes what you offer. So, the Buyer essentially buys his/her solution rather than your product/service. Makes sense?

That is a 180-degree shift from the traditional sales model. Make that shift and the effectiveness of your interaction with Buyers will improve dramatically. And so will your sales results!

Don’t confuse Options with Solutions

I often ask Sellers, ‘how many solutions are there in a typical sale? They usually respond ‘well, depends on the number of vendors.’

I then say, ‘OK, five vendors.’

and they respond, ‘five solutions.’

I then say, ‘Really? Or is that just five options?’

Ultimately, in any sale there is just one offer that fits the Buyer’s perception of a solution and that is the one they buy. Everything else was an option, not a solution, otherwise the Buyer would have bought it.

Key Takeaway: You don’t want to be AN Option. You want to be THE Solution!

Now, how do you get yourself into that position? That's the topic of another article.


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