Solution Selling was designed to be scalable and to address both complex, difficult sales cycles as well as less complex, shorter sales cycles. When the subject of the shorter or less complex sales comes up, I’m usually asked two questions: Does Solution Selling apply? If so, how is it used?
The concepts and principles apply to both and it’s because Solution Selling is based on human nature and how people buy; not all sales situations are created equal, however. Not all selling situations require an entire sales team to navigate every step of the sales process while using every job aid and technique of Solution Selling—that wouldn’t be practical.
Keep in mind that one of the cornerstones of the Solution Selling sales process is to align your selling activities with the buyer’s psychological buying phases. You may want to refer to Figure 2.4 in Chapter Two (“Buyers’ Concerns Shift over Time”). The buyer has concerns that need to be addressed as they change or shift over time. Over time is the key phrase. In a less complex sale, the buyer may go through these phases in thirty minutes instead of thirty days. The job aids, activities, and approaches that we use in the more complex sale might need to be altered, simplified, or ignored. (See Figure B.1.)
Figure B.1: Scalable Sales Process
It may also only be necessary to focus on a subset of the entire sales process as it relates to specific job functions—that is to say, a particular job function may only execute a few of the process steps. Salespeople who are executing only a few of the steps or who simply have a less complex sale can narrow their focus on specifics of Solution Selling.
The most important skill you can bring to a less complex sale is your need development competency. You simply adapt your questioning to fit the situation. The qualification process is scaled down, too. There’s minimal qualification of the buying process (project management); it may be a one-call close. You still need to qualify how your buyer wants to close (get delivery instructions, clarify purchase order procedures, and so on).
A salesperson engaging in smaller sales situations or transactional sales is a likely candidate for a streamlined version of Solution Selling. If this is the case, the use of the entire 9 Block Vision Processing Model may be overkill. The impact column (Explore Impact) may become nonexistent. Because the confirming questions (especially R3 and I3) tend to sound redundant in short conversations, I recommend not using them. Since we use the Pain Sheet within the Vision Processing Model, your entire conversation will probably only use two columns—(Diagnose Reasons and Visualize Capabilities [R1, C1]) and two rows—(Open Questions and Control Questions [R2, C2]).
Let’s review how you can apply the Solution Selling principles to a transactional sale. Scale the 9 Block Vision Processing Model to correspond with your sale’s complexity. Narrow your focus on boxes R1, R2, C1, and C2. Pain Sheets can help you focus in this kind of a sale. For example, for the questioning sequence, use a two-column version of your Pain Sheet—Diagnose Reasons (R1, R2) and Visualize Capabilities (C1, C2). In fact, I recommend that in your precall planning you prepare two-column Pain Sheets. That will make the sales easier.
Solution Selling applies also to telemarketing. If a telemarketer is engaged in fielding inbound calls (where prospects and customers are calling in for product information, terms, and conditions), I suggest using the same philosophical approach. Again, use a streamlined approach; scale your selling activities according to the situation.
Figure B.2: Scalable Job Aids
For example, if a prospect calls in asking for voice mail, the salesperson should ask an Open Visualize Capabilities (C1) question: “How do you see yourself using voice mail?” Taking time to understand the prospect’s vision before the salesperson talks about his or her product makes it a more “problemcentric” call. Remember the principle diagnose before you prescribe. Imagine how this differentiates a salesperson from his or her competitors. To continue with my example, the prospect might answer, “When I leave the house, and I get a call concerning any of my children’s activities, like soccer or Scouts, I want to make sure I get the message.”
Ask Diagnose Reasons questions (R1, R2), such as “How are you getting these messages today?” With this question, the salesperson attempts to understand the specific problem the prospect is seeking to solve. The prospect might respond, “The coach or the Scout leader has to call me at home, not at work. Sometimes my children get home first. They take the call, but forget to give me the message. I have a cell phone, but I don’t want to give that number to everyone.”
Even if the salesperson doesn’t extend the vision further and begins talking about the offering, the prospect already feels that the telemarketer is taking time to focus on his or her situation. This is better than diving straight into product discussions.
The salesperson can try to further develop the prospect’s existing vision using a capability, or C2 question. It works best to ask this in a capability format (when, who, what); for example, “Would it help you if, when you left the house, you could dial your cell phone number into the phone so that when a call comes in, it’s routed to your cell phone? This way those lost calls might be avoided.” The salesperson is simply selling a capability the prospect wants. The salesperson may then propose an additional feature, such as call forwarding. This would be an add-on to the buyer’s original vision of voice mail.
As you can see, need development (Vision Creation and Vision Re-engineering) is the key and sometimes the only skill exercised in less complex, one-call sales. That is why the questions asked by the salesperson are so vitally important.