The True Meaning of B2B Sales in the Solutions Marketing context

Hi readers,

My understanding of Solutions Sales in a B2B business has been enhanced considerably after my MBA program where I had taken Solutions Marketing as one of my key electives.

Based on my experience in B2B solution sales of 18 years and contemporary coursework in Solutions Marketing taught by Prof. Stephen Hurley, I am sharing what I believe is the essence of B2B sales in a Solutions marketing context.

B2B sales, as I was taught, and which I have practiced  is heavily dependent on an ROI analysis. The numbers used in the ROI analysis are the customer’s numbers, gathered through effective questioning.

(NOTE-2 key skills MUST HAVEs for a successful solutions sales professional- Financial analysis capability AND Interviewing /researching skills)
I taught my B2B sales people to look for ways of contributing to the prosperity of their customers’ business in five key areas: (1) sales, (2) employee or process productivity, (3) profits, (4) competitive advantage, and (5) cost control…If a B2B salesperson is talking about anything other than those five issues they are probably wasting their time and their customer’s time.

(NOTE- Keeping a focus on issues that are top priority for your client is key to success, otherwise there is the real danger to scatter your thoughts and energy all over the place and end up delivering nothing to your client, and certainly losing your incentives!!)

The five elements, mentioned above are interesting because they’re a map of what most companies think are important — and therefore provide hooks for B2B selling. 

I claim that there are only important two (2) goals inside every company: 1) increasing sales revenue and 2) decreasing cost of sales.  

To illustrate this point, let’s look at the five elements mentioned earlier

  1. Sales.  Nobody wants to decrease their sales, so this element is simply a restatement of the goal to increase sales revenue.
  2. Employee/Process Productivity.   Increased productivity decreases the cost of doing business, thereby decreasing the cost of sales.  If you increase productivity somewhere in a company in such a way that it increases the cost of sales, you’re decreasing profitability, which is stupid.
  3. Profits.  Increased revenue and decreased profitability means more profit, by definition.
  4. Competitive Advantage.  Any one can beat a competitor by giving away more value for less money; the trick is to grow at the competitor’s expense and still remain profitable.  Therefore, competitive advantage consists entirely of increasing revenues while either decreasing the cost of sales or keeping them stable.  Even product development (like building a better mousetrap) is actually just a way to increase revenues by making more sales.
  5. Cost Control.  You’d have to be an imbecile to control costs in one part of company in a way that ends up increasing the cost of sales and/or decreasing revenue.  Therefore, the only meaningful cost control consists of decreasing the cost of sales.

To repeat, there are only two (2) things important in a company: 1) increasing sales revenue and 2) decreasing cost of sales.

Therefore, if your B2B offering, through a solutions sales proposal,  focuses on helping your customer do either of those two things, you’ve got something that’s worth buying.

And if your product does both of those things, you’ve got a real winner.

So, in order to help you succeed in your product driven solutions sales efforts, you need to brush up your solutions marketing skills!!

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5 Simple Steps to B2B Solutions Sales Success

Hi,

This goes out to all solution marketers and the solutions sales professionals. The following is based on my current and contemporary understanding of solutions marketing at the HULT Business School, attending Prof. Stephen Hurley’s classes, and what I have practiced as a solutions sales specialist during my roles in chemicals and print & packaging businesses across India and Africa.

  • STEP #1. Discover where your customer is today. Before you call on a prospect, use the Internet or business contacts find out as much as you can about where the prospect is today, what’s going on with their business, where they’re having problems, how happy they are with the products they’re currently using, how they currently do things which your offerings might help them do better. When you initially meet with your first customer contact, ask open-ended questions to obtain information that fills in the details you couldn’t find out through your research.
  • STEP #2. Discover where your customer wants to be. After you’ve got a solid picture of where the prospect is today, gradually transition the customer conversation to asking questions about your contact’s vision for the future, what would it be like in a perfect world, what’s worked so far, what could work better, how the contact would feel if that problem were solved, etc. You need to understand the customer’s destination before you can help your customer to arrive there.
  • STEP #3. Position your solution as the best vehicle to get from the current situation to the desired one. Based upon what you’ve learned in steps 1 and 2, craft a vision of a solution that can help the customer make the transition to a better future situation. Present only those elements of your products and services that are part of that tightly-focused solution. Don’t confuse your customer with all the features and functions of your solution that are irrelevant to his or her needs.
  • STEP #4. Repeat steps 1 through 3 with multiple, increasingly important, contacts. Every customer contact will have a different perspective on the current situation and the desired goal. For each customer contact, discover that perspective and position your solution so that each person involved views the solution as crucial to his or her long-term business success. As the sales process continues, your solution will increasingly and widely perceived as being of great value to the customer’s firm.
  • STEP #5. Close the deal.  If you followed the four steps above, you have already positioned yourself to close the deal.  The main thing here is to have the courage to actually ask for the business, at the right time, and with the right people in the room.