The Pros and Cons of Solution Selling vs Product Selling


Travis Scott

May 17, 2021


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Solution selling is probably no mystery to you. You may even be using it as your sales methodology of choice.

Solution selling is a strategy that took off in the mid-1980s. It's centered on the idea that, as a salesperson, it's your job to diagnose a prospect’s needs, then present them with the right solution.

In most cases, a prospect won't even know that they face any problem or solution. They certainly don't see it as being urgent or understand how to address the issue.

Woman selling inside a store

Because of this, a salesperson is an essential commodity. For example, it's the salesperson's job to help a prospect understand and adequately react to the problem in solution selling. One of the best places salespeople can learn new techniques and hone their skills is online learning, so be sure to choose the best online sales course to deliver the results you are looking to achieve.

This article will look at solution selling vs. product selling to uncover which method works best in 2021 and beyond.

Defining Solution Selling‍

In solution selling, your salespeople are trained to consider the needs of a prospect holistically. The goal is to ultimately recommend the services or products that best address the customer's concerns and problems.

It's a process that requires empathy and critical thought, along with a good grasp of the prospect's current circumstances. But, in many cases, selling a service or product just for the sake of selling it can be a simple concept.

But when you want to sell a solution and not just a product, the process runs deeper.

To succeed in solution selling, a salesperson will need:

  1. A strong understanding of the industry they're selling in
  2. An understanding of the prospect's unique challenges
  3. Knowledge of how the sales process worked for similar customers
  4. High-level goals to present solutions to the problems uncovered in the sales process

Solution selling is highly used in certain types of businesses because it works well in specific situations. Let's take a look at some of them.

When Should Solution Selling Be Used?‍

Man explaining a solution with a laptop

When considering whether to use solution selling vs. product selling, several key factors are to look at.

Solution selling is a good approach for industries that have complex products that are highly customizable. For example, a business that offers cloud storage and maintenance/security services will typically have customer-specific bundles that they create to meet the needs of each buyer.

It's the salesperson's job to determine how much data the prospect needs to put on the cloud and how many devices need to connect to it. The salesperson also needs to know how much support the customer will need and add-ons that they can suggest.

Solution Selling vs. Product Selling‍

In product selling, a salesperson is typically looking for immediate gratification. However, selling a solution means that you'll need to think more long-term.

Solution selling is about seeing the big picture and meeting your customer where they live.

Sure, features, benefits, and product specifications are all important. But these things will never be at the center of a solution selling approach that's appropriately executed.

Product selling emphasizes the what over the why. Solution selling does the exact opposite.

The solution selling approach is almost always the best strategy for selling products and services that don't "sell themselves" or when a product solves a problem that a buyer is not yet aware of.

How To Start Solution Selling‍

Getting started with solution selling involves a simple three-step plan that any salesperson can employ.

1. Identifying the Most Common Pain Points‍

Stressed businesswoman

If you cannot identify your customers’ pain points, finding the right prospects or giving them your solutions is impossible.

Start by analyzing the deals you've won. Then, figure out the problems that you solved that lead these prospects into making a purchase.

Don't be afraid to call them up and ask a few simple questions, such as:

  1. What were the factors that made you decide to go with our solution?
  2. What made you decide that we could solve your problem and why?

Then follow the regular flow of the conversation from there. Again, you’ll learn a lot.

2. Curate Your Questions‍

After you understand the most prominent problems your solution solves, spend time developing a series of questions that will help diagnose your prospects.

The goal here is to have enough of the right questions ready so that most of your time with a customer is centered on them and their needs, rather than you or your solution.

Begin with open-ended, broad questions that dive into the essential parts of their business. As things progress, further target your questions that uncover facts that will eventually help you understand how to present your solution.

Create Value

3. Sell Value‍

Selling a solution works because the focus is on ROI rather than features and sticker price. Whether you're an independent salesperson, sales manager, or business owner, it's crucial to fully understand the value of your product and how to demonstrate it.

Some good questions to consider asking yourself are:

  1. How does your product make life easier? What tasks and challenges does it reduce?
  2. Will your product save people time? How much time? What else could they get done in the time your product can save them?
  3. Will the product save a prospect some money? How much? What other things could they do with that money?
  4. Does your product make your customers look or feel more important, influential, successful, or credible?
  5. How will your product impact the customer's bottom line one month from now? How about a year from now?

Practice these questions with a coworker to see how they play in real life.

The Sales Process For Solution Selling‍

Although solution selling has become a broad term in today's market, salespeople who use this methodology will almost always follow the same process:

1. Prospect. This involves finding potential buyers who will benefit from your solution.

2. Qualify. Understand the DMU (decision-making unit).

3. Discovery. Figure out the needs of the buyers.

4. Adding value. Develop a champion within an organization to gain access to the key decision-makers.

5. Present. Roll out a solution that's custom and demonstrates positive ROI.

6. Close. Figure out an agreement that's beneficial to both parties.

Asking Questions‍

Woman asking questions

Without asking the right questions, it's impossible to diagnose pain points. This stage has three goals:

1. Identify causes. What factors cause pain for the buyer? How is each of the pain points ranked in impact and importance?

2. Calculate magnitude. How does the pain impact the prospect and their organization? How many of their people can benefit from your solution?

3. Gain buy-in. Figure out how much your buyer is interested in the solution. How excited are they (or aren't they)?

Some example questions would look like this:

  1. What's led to your problem arriving at its current state?
  2. How significant is your problem?
  3. Have you noticed any unique factors that help solve the problem?
  4. What does your Product Manager think of the problem?
  5. We'll be able to solve this problem with our solution. What are your thoughts?

Solution Selling In the Real World

Solution selling is still a must-use methodology in many areas of sales. With this information, you'll be able to tackle solutions selling freshly. If you need help, schedule a call with a small business growth advisor who is an expert with emarketing for small business.

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