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
- Sales. Nobody wants to decrease their sales, so this element is simply a restatement of the goal to increase sales revenue.
- 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.
- Profits. Increased revenue and decreased profitability means more profit, by definition.
- 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.
- 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!!