Solution selling is complex and very exciting. Whether you’re selling Business Process Automation (BPA) or another form of solution, it is likely that you have a tough job that involves a great deal of complexity.
This stuff’s chess; it ain’t checkers.
There may be dozens of decision makers, and while all of them may not be required to say “Yes,” chances are that ANY of them could say “No.” You could be faced with all sorts of competing projects across the enterprise, and political and financial landscapes can change quickly.
I’ll spell it out and then very briefly speak to each key area.
S is for Solution
T is for Timeline
R is for Review
O is for Options
N is for Need
G is for Galvanization
M is for Money
A is for Authority
N is for Negotiation
These are critical areas to address in your sales cycle.
Whether or not the prospect fully agrees at the onset of the engagement, you need to be sober in your assessment of whether or not you have a bona fide, legitimate solution for them. Otherwise, why bother?
If the customer has a legitimate project that you are selling to, what is the exact timeline? The implementation timeline? Is there a compelling event or deadline driving this project?
Forget about entertaining and servicing a prospect that is not actually in review of the project. If they are simply in research mode (vs. review mode), I would suggest that you balance this project with more advanced-stage opportunities in your pipeline to increase your sales success.
What options exist for your customer? Chances are there are at least five options:
1. Your solution
2. Your competitor(s’) solution,
3. Build it themselves or develop it in-house
4. Do Nothing
5. Improve or upgrade their existing process (perhaps by adding resources or conducting training). You need to be able to sell against their available options, especially the option that most companies choose — which is “improve or upgrade existing processes.”
Is there a need, do you understand the need and does the customer agree with you on what their need is?
This is my favorite one. Remember, you are not in sales to entertain and serve — not completely anyway. If you are working with customers who are not returning your calls promptly, not bringing other key contacts into meetings, not exposing you to post-purchase processes or display other key indicators that they are not as active and committed to the sales process as you are, you should either gain their commitment or move on.
If there is a project in motion, is the funding of the project pre-approved? Does that funding meet your solution’s cost and all of the related costs — such as the staff the prospect will need to devote to deploying your solution? Are you sure of the fiscal cycles? Is the funding coming from resources such as:
1. Project Budget,
2. Cap Ex (Capital Expense requiring a high level sign off),
3. Op Ex (Operating Expense)
4. Departmental Budget
And keep in mind, most companies have the ability to overspend on budgets, or borrow from other budgets, at about the same rate my wife does — which means they can do it — so don’t ever let a negotiator whittle you down solely because of a specific budget.
A Champion is one thing, an Authority is another. Is the senior executive even aware of the project? Who is the specific authority relative to: signing contracts, producing purchase orders, reviewing legal documents, developing and implementing training programs, technical review and implementations, user acceptance, etc? If you are selling solutions, you had better be exposed to a variety of individuals with legitimate authority over each one.
Many times the real selling doesn’t start until it is time to negotiate. But you want to hear the saddest piece on solution selling: The negotiation process is typically when the sales rep gives up the most concessions and it is also the point at which, in most cases, the customer has already made the decision to go forward. They’re exposing the sales rep to resources that are post-purchase resources (such as legal, technical deployment folks, training folks, purchasing people) and somehow the sales rep feels obliged to start whacking away on their own proposal. It’s insanity.
That’s STRONGMAN. I’ve used it for almost ten years in my own business and as a tool for enhanced empowered sales training. I hope you find it an effective model for your solution selling success.