Solution Selling

John Eben
John Eben
John Eben is Vice President of Business Operations at Hunter Business Group.  Jo
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Jan 14 Sales Effectiveness 0 Comment
I’m not sure my sales reps can do solution selling. 

Wikipedia defines “Solution Selling” as: “… a sales methodology. Rather than just promoting an existing product, the salesperson focuses on the customer's pain(s) and addresses the issue with his or her offerings (product and services). The resolution of the pain is what constitutes a ‘solution’.”  As you may know, selling solutions is different than transactional selling.  Selling solutions requires investigative questioning, active listening, probing, and really understanding the needs / pain of customers, in order to prescribe the right solution.  Transaction selling, is typically “pitching” a product, irrespective of the needs or pain the customer wants to resolve. Often sales reps are hired because of their success in generating sales, but we discover that they can only sell transactions, not solutions.  Or sales reps may have been with a company for many years, had success with transaction selling, but that approach doesn’t work as well today. 

So, how do we tell if our reps can do solution selling?  How do we tell if they can be trained to make the transition from transactions to solutions? Do we need different sales reps?  Not all sales reps can solution sell.  The hard-wired behaviors required for transactional sales are not the same as those required for solution sales.  In order to tell which reps can make the transition, they need to be evaluated based on the behavioral profile for solution selling at your organization. 

The “right behavioral profile” for solution selling is not the same for every company.  Typically it includes the ability to suspend judgment, not “pre-assume” a solution, the ability to ask good probing questions regarding “pain points,” and a skill in translating the answers to those questions into the right solution for the customer.

Assessing sales reps for the “solution selling role” includes the following steps:

  1. Define the sales role in the context of solution selling.
  2. Define the skill and behavioral requirements for the role.
  3. Evaluate each rep relative to the behavioral competencies required for the role to determine strengths and weaknesses.
  4. Relative to shortfalls, evaluate which can be overcome with training, and which suggest the rep is not  a good fit for solution selling



It is tempting to bypass these steps and just provide some brief training and coaching to your current staff.  The reality is that for many reps that have a history of transactional selling, an evaluation is necessary to determine if the rep can effectively sell solutions to customers.  It may be that some of your reps aren’t capable of solution selling, and it is better to replace them in order to meet your customers’ needs.


About the author

John Eben

John Eben is Vice President of Business Operations at Hunter Business Group.  John is responsible for Hunter staff that deliver results to clients, including ensuring a comprehensive Customer Asset Management solution that delivers measurable ROI for each client.  John’s experience includes over 25 years in sales and marketing consulting and operations and over 10 years of experience in financial management.

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