These days, it seems like everyone—CEOs, salespeople, and business owners alike—throws around the term solution selling as if it’s some magical new concept.
In reality, the solution selling approach goes back a very long time…
Even though it’s been around for a while, solution selling is a beautiful concept that’s extremely relevant and effective in sales today.
Solution selling takes the focus off of selling a product or service, and instead focuses on the solution to a set of challenges.
That’s really what solution selling is all about: solving your prospect’s challenges.
So in this video, I’m going to share the ultimate guide to solution selling in 7 simple steps. Check it out:
1. Bring real insight.
This is the core of the way I think of solution selling. Traditional sales is all about touting your product or service, using a big fancy pitch, and doing a tap dance to convince people to buy. But solution selling hinges upon the salesperson’s ability to bring actual insight to the prospect.
When a prospect sits down with a salesperson, they know that they’re going to get sold. So it makes perfect sense that prospects do their best to avoid ever sitting down with salespeople—whether it’s via Zoom, on the phone, or face to face. By bringing real insight to prospects during the outreach phase of our sales process, we can design the start of our interactions to demonstrate that we’re worth having a conversation with.
Think of yourself as someone who has a valuable bird’s-eye view of your slice of the market. After all, you deal with prospects in your industry all the time. You understand what’s happening in your prospects’ world better than most—better, even, than your prospects themselves. Oftentimes, your prospects are like horses with little blinders on; they can’t see left or right, all they can see is what’s right in front of them. From your vantage point, you have a powerful set of insights that you’ve garnered from talking to so many different people in the industry. You’re almost like a consultant, someone who sees what’s going on at a very high level.
Given all this, ask yourself: What insight can I bring to my prospects to engage them in that initial conversation? What insight will demonstrate to my prospects that I really understand their world on a level that not many people do?
When it comes to solution selling tips, the number one place to begin is right here: starting the conversation with every prospect by bringing genuine insight to the table.
2. It’s not about your offering.
Salespeople often have a major misconception about solution selling. They tend to think that it means they’re selling a solution, so they should be exclusively focused on their offering. That’s actually the opposite of what solution selling is all about.
Solution selling is about understanding the challenges that the prospect is facing—it’s not about focusing on your solution or offering. It’s all about the prospect. One of the most important tips on solution selling is simply to seek to understand the prospect’s challenges better than anyone else out there.
When it comes to effective solutions selling, the key is to stop worrying about your product or service—and don’t focus on the features and benefits of your offering. Instead, focus on understanding your prospects, keying up on their world, bringing them real insight, and making them the center of your focus.
3. Know their challenges.
I’ve already mentioned this briefly, but knowing your prospect’s challenges is one of the single most important aspects of successful solution selling. When using a solution selling approach, take on a doctor’s mindset to get in the right headspace for unearthing your prospect’s top challenges and frustrations. Good doctors make it their number one priority to understand exactly what their patients are going through before they come up with a treatment. In the same way, you want to deeply understand the challenges your prospects are facing before you give them a solution.
In fact, one of our rules at the Sales Insights Lab is that if you can articulate your prospects’ challenges better than anyone else can, they will assume that you have the right solution for them. Really dig into the challenges that the prospect talks about, ask questions about them, and find out what’s most important.
Always remember that no matter how knowledgeable or experienced you are, you never know a prospect’s particular situation until you seek to understand what they’re going through. Get them talking about their challenges before you do anything else.
4. Dig, dig, dig.
This is one of those selling tips that I feel really passionate about. Once you’ve learned about your prospect’s challenges, you need to keep digging. Dig, dig, dig. I cannot overstate the importance of continuing to dig to uncover more about your prospect’s challenges. You really want a deep understanding of why those challenges are problematic, how they affect the prospect directly, and anything else important about them that the prospect can verbalize.
Oftentimes, it takes some digging to get the prospect to articulate all of these things about their challenges. I find that most prospects’ challenges are like icebergs. While more salespeople are content just to catch a description of the tip of that iceberg, solutions selling requires that we look at what’s beneath the surface. We’ve got to dig deep.
Another analogy for this selling tip is peeling back the layers of an onion. Think of your prospects’ challenges as onions with lots of layers that need to be peeled back in order for you to really see what’s going on at the core.
If a prospect says something like, “This year has been really crazy for us,” don’t just say, “I totally understand!” Because you don’t. Instead say, “Thank you for sharing that. When you say it’s been crazy, tell me a little bit about what’s actually been going on.”
Keep going. Ask them to unpack everything they say. Dig, dig, dig until you get to the core issue. That’s how you can demonstrate real value in your solution selling interactions.
5. Drop the pitch.
Dropping the pitch is one of my biggest passions in sales. Today, 99% of salespeople are still focused on their pitch. If you take only one piece of advice away from my tips on solution selling, let it be this: You need to stop pitching.
Pitching is the most common tool that salespeople use to try to engage prospects and close deals. It’s all about the pitch. But in reality, prospects don’t need your pitch. They don’t want it. They’re turned off by it. And they have so much access to information on their own that your pitch is entirely useless to them.
Instead of a pitch from you, prospects need you to guide them through a clear process to determine whether there’s a fit between their challenges and your solution. With solutions selling, we create value not through the persuasiveness of our pitch, but through our understanding of the prospect’s challenges, and the real costs associated with those challenges. What’s the value of actually solving the prospect’s challenges? That’s the value of your offering—not some fancy ROI calculator that you pitch to your prospect. It’s about them, not you.
6. Let their questions drive your presentation.
I love this selling tip because it breathes new life into the presentation phase of the sale. It’s a different way of thinking about presenting, one that puts the focus on the prospect and takes pressure off of both sides of the interaction. When you finally have enough understanding of your prospect’s challenges, it’s time to present. I like to think of this step as demonstrating that you can really solve their problems, rather than presenting.
I know you might have worked long and hard on your one-hour PowerPoint presentation. But the reality is that your prospects only care about specific aspects of your offering. If you did a good job during the discovery phase, then you should know exactly what aspects those are. And your presentation should only focus on those specific items. Nothing else.
The key to a successful solution selling presentation is to keep it as short as possible, and then let the prospect’s questions drive where the presentation goes. Think of it as a choose-your-own-adventure book for the prospect. It’s not a novel that has to be read from start to finish. Instead, they get to pick and choose which parts they experience based on the questions they ask and the comments they make throughout the presentation.
Repeatedly engage the prospect throughout your presentation, and keep them focused on what matters most to them. This will increase your chances of ultimately closing the deal.
7. Respond to objections with questions.
This may sound a little counterintuitive. Many salespeople respond to objections with kneejerk “comebacks” aimed at making the prospect think their objection was somehow misplaced or misguided. But prospects give objections for a reason. With solution selling, it’s your job to find out what that reason is.
When you get an objection, don’t immediately respond with a persuasive idea or explanation. Instead, inquire. Find out what’s going on in the prospect’s mind. Get some clarification. The most effective way to do this is to respond to objections with questions. If a prospect says something like, “This seems really expensive,” don’t say, “Well, we have payment plans!” or “Let me see if I can get you a discount.” Instead, say something like, “I really appreciate you saying that. Help me understand, though, what prompts you to mention that?”
And let them explain why they mentioned that potential objection. It may be that it was more than they expected and they don’t have the budget in place—or it may be that they just don’t see enough value. Whatever it is, we want to find out why they mentioned the objection. Again, this is not about avoidance. We really want to get to the core of the issue. Don’t ever take an objection at face value without digging to understand the reasoning behind it.
More Solution Selling Tips…
Years ago, a term came along that has since become a ubiquitous buzzword in the world of sales: solution selling.
I can’t tell you how many salespeople tell me, “I use solution selling” or “My focus is on being a solution salesperson.”
In reality, most salespeople who think they’re solution selling are actually just “putting lipstick on a pig,” as the saying goes—taking the same old-school sales techniques people have been rehashing for decades and just calling it something else.
Solution selling is a specific art form, so if you’re not implementing several key steps in your sales process, then you’re not actually doing real solution selling.
That’s why I put together this video. Check it out to learn 7 solution selling tips for the new world of sales:
8. Lead with more insight [The mother of all solution selling tips!]
Your prospects are weary. They’re busy. They don’t have time to waste with a random salesperson. What they want is to talk to someone who can demonstrate insight, someone who shows that they can bring value to their business or to their life. This is central to solution selling.
That’s why, as salespeople, we need to lead our sales interactions with insight. Of course, the goal is to get prospects talking. But in order to get there, we need to lead with more than just something like, “Hey, I’d love to learn more about your business so that we can talk about how my company can help you…” Your prospect is immediately turned off by that.
You must lead with insight in order to reach a truly solution-selling conversation. This is the ultimate of all solution selling tips.
9. Know as much as you can about them before.
Many salespeople go into selling situations completely blind. This approach always reminds me of the horses that used to take people for rides in the city, just walking down the street with blinders on to keep them from panicking. That’s how most salespeople sell. They walk into a selling situation with blinders on.
There’s no reason to do this anymore. Today, salespeople have access to so much data, research, and information on prospects before that first meeting or conversation. If you’re truly doing solution selling, then you must know as much as you can about prospects before you ever talk to them.
The more you can arm yourself with that information, the more you can demonstrate that you know exactly who they are and what’s going on in their world—and the more likely they are to open up and start talking.
10. Get them talking ASAP.
Once you’ve demonstrated insight and shown that you know who they are, it’s time to switch gears and get them talking instead of you. This is a critical transition in any selling situation, but it’s a pillar of solution selling. You’ve got to break down that wall and get them talking.
11. Don’t be quick to solve.
This solution selling tip runs counter to what most salespeople have been taught their entire lives. Think of when you were in kindergarten and the teacher asked the class, “What’s one plus one?” Of course, the precocious kid in class would put up their hand right away and say, “Two.” That kid would get a gold star. The quicker they could answer the question, the quicker they got the gold star—and that was the lesson we learned all throughout school, and even well into our careers.
Yet in sales, the salesperson who is quick to answer actually misses out on so much valuable information coming from the prospect. Don’t be quick to solve. Don’t be quick to answer. Instead, dig deeper. Get as deep as you can before you go into presentation mode. Most salespeople are presenting way too early. So don’t be quick to solve.
12. Dig very, very, very deep.
I’ve already mentioned the idea of “digging very deep” a couple of times, but it’s so important to solution selling that it deserves its own point altogether. Great salespeople dig so much deeper in the conversation than average- and low-performers do. When a prospect says something like, “We’ve been dealing with this challenge…” most salespeople reply, “We can help you with that!” But a great salesperson says, “Help me understand what you mean by that…” or “Tell me more…” or “Unpack that for me…” The deeper you go, the more layers of the onion you can peel back to get to the core issue—and the better you can demonstrate that you’re the right person to solve their challenges.
13. Spontaneous questions are everything.
Spontaneous questions are just little questions (or prompting phrases) that aren’t necessarily built into your scripts. They help you organically get the prospect to open up more about what’s going on in their world right now. I already gave a few examples of spontaneous questions in the previous tip: “Tell me more…” and “Help me understand what you mean by that…” and “Unpack that for me…” are all great examples.
If the prospect starts telling you something—anything—that seems important or relevant to their challenges, use spontaneous questions to keep digging deeper and deeper. Think of yourself as a psychiatrist or a doctor trying to get to the core issue.
14. Close for next steps, not the sale.
Low- and average-performing salespeople go for the sale. They try to get a definitive close at the end of every conversation. But top performers—particularly with larger transaction size sales—don’t necessarily go for the close of the sale. Instead, they’re just closing for next steps.
Great salespeople know that if you’re keeping sales on track with clear next steps, then you’re going to hold those sales together. In today’s world of selling, sales are much more complex than they used to be. There are more decision makers. There are more people involved in each sales conversation. So instead of trying to go for some fancy close at the end of the conversation, just make sure you’re holding everything together with clear and scheduled next steps.
Even More Solution Selling Tips for the New World…
Has anyone ever told you that you should use solution selling?
If so, I’m willing to bet you thought that person had no idea what they were talking about.
I see this all the time from sales managers and CEOs. They tell me, “I really want my salespeople to use a solution selling approach.”
But at the end of the day, they have no clue what that actually means.
As soon as I ask a few questions about what this approach entails, I often get the same response: “Well, the first thing they’ve got to do is pitch the solution.”
This couldn’t be more wrong!
In reality, solution selling is a fantastic approach. But in order for it to be successful in today’s market, we must first drop the old-school selling crap about pitching solutions.
Instead, we want to take people through a process that helps them identify their own solution to their problems. This is true solution selling.
In this video, I’m going to show you more quick solution selling tips to close more sales. Check it out:
Solution Selling Video Summary:
15. Stop Pitching.
We need to stop pitching if we’re going to apply an approach that actually works.
Whether we call it solution selling or anything else, no sales approaching will work if you pitch up front at the beginning of a prospect conversation.
Most salespeople are starting the conversation by immediately pitching their offering. They talk about the features and benefits of their product, and how it’s going to transform their prospect’s organization.
What they’re really doing is using a 140-year-old selling strategy that simply doesn’t work in today’s market. And it definitely doesn’t work for solution selling.
In fact, the data shows that prospects and buyers don’t want us to start with a pitch. Instead, they want us to really understand what’s going on in their world.
16. Drop the Excitement.
If you’re selling a product or service that you really believe in, chances are you may have some excitement and enthusiasm around the sale.
That’s all well and good—but I challenge you to keep your excitement inside, and tone down your enthusiasm. You simply don’t want your prospects to detect excitement in your voice at the start of a call. .
When solution selling, never start a conversation with a cheerful, “Hey George! What if I could show you a way to transform your organization?” It’s painful for anyone to listen to a cheesy, enthusiastic sales approach like that.
Excitement will always make you come off as low-value in the eyes of a prospect. Drop that enthusiasm, and instead just be genuine and real. Lower your tonality and be calm.
17. Make it About Them.
This is the single biggest difference between traditional old-school selling and modern solution selling: Modern solution selling is all about the prospect.
It’s about understanding what’s going on in their world. When you’re solution selling, you want to focus almost exclusively on their challenges.
To that end, you may want to start your conversations like this: “Lauren, right now what I’m seeing in the marketplace is that organizations just like yours are struggling with x, y, and z. Do any of those issues ring true to you?”
Pull them into a conversation that’s all about them.
18. Understand their Challenges.
Once you’ve made the conversation about the prospect, it’s time to dig into their challenges.
Ask, “George, if you could be doing just one thing better when it comes to _______, what would it be?” Fill in the blank with what makes sense for what you sell.
Go deeper. Think of solution selling as being as an armchair psychologist, asking questions to gain more and more clarity into your prospects’ struggles. Get them to paint you a picture of what’s happening in their world.
19. Know their Objectives.
This is the flipside of understanding challenges. Objectives are all about understanding what they’re looking to accomplish.
What’s important to your prospects? The key to solution selling is to understand, big picture, what your prospects are looking to accomplish this year with regards to what you sell.
Even if you’re selling to consumers, this is a vital part of successful solution selling. My wife and I just remodeled our house, and we met with a bunch of contractors. You wouldn’t believe how many of them just went right into the nuts and bolts of what had to be done—neglecting to ask about our objectives for the home we had just bought.
Only one contractor (who we ended up hiring, by the way) had the presence of mind to ask us, “Big picture, what are you looking to do here? What do you want to be using this space for?”
Answering these simple questions about our objectives allowed us to tell our story and we felt like the contractor was interested in helping us meet our specific needs.
20. Get Clear on what Accomplishing their Goals will Actually Mean.
What does accomplishing that goal actually mean to the organization? What does it mean in dollars? These questions are paramount to successful solution selling with any prospect.
It’s time to ask questions like, “If you were able to accomplish this, what would it mean in additional revenue to your organization? What would it mean in additional profitability? What would it mean to you personally?”
Once you get answers to these questions, you’ve created so much value for your solution, because they’re basically telling you what your value is to them. This is so powerful.
21. Understand their Personal Motivation.
I can’t say this enough: Every business objective has a personal objective.
Your prospect may say, “We need to increase our profitability.” But what does that mean to them? How does it affect them?
What does that problem—or solving that problem—mean to them personally? It could mean a bonus. It could mean losing their job. It could mean making more money. Who knows what it means? You have to find out in order to be successful at solution selling.
We want to understand their personal motivation. The data shows that buyers always make decisions based on personal motivations and emotion, not just based on logic.
22. Present Only what Matters to Them.
We want to present back to prospects the solutions to the challenges they’ve already told us are what matters most. We don’t want to go any further than that.
Where a lot of salespeople miss the boat here is that they want to present the whole thing. They want to show everything they can do to help prospects solve all of their problems.
The reality of solutions selling is that your prospect only cares about one or two things. Present only to those challenges, only to those concerns, only to those objectives.
If you do that, you’re saying, “Hey, I’ve listened to you. I understand you. And now I’m going to arm you with the solution to those challenges.”
That’s true solution selling.
23. Use Case Studies.
This is an important distinction in solution selling. Most salespeople are just presenting features and the benefits. What we really want to be doing is presenting case studies.
This sounds like: “Barry, you told me about challenges x, y, and z—and that really reminds me of a particular client we have who had the exact same types of challenges. Let me share with you what those challenges looked like, and then what we did to solve them. Would that make sense?”
Any prospect is going to say, “Of course!”
Case studies enable you to present your solution in the form of a story that engaged your prospects on a deeper level. Everyone loves storytime, so be sure to incorporate it in solution selling.
24. Stop Overcoming Objections.
I said it: Stop overcoming objections.
I can’t tell you the number of times a sales manager has come up to me and said, “We need to teach our salespeople how to overcome objections.” My response is always the same: “Well, do you think objections are the problem? Or is the sales process leading up to those objections the problem? Why are they getting these objections in the first place?” And they inevitably say, “You know what? You’re right.”
It’s really not about the objections. It’s about the fact that your sales process is leading you to get objections in the first place.
Top salespeople make sure they understand exactly what’s going on in the life of their prospects to understand what they care about, so objections shouldn’t even come up at the end.
If you reach the end of a conversation and the prospect says, “You didn’t mention this, and this is what’s really important to me,” then you know you’re in a lot of trouble. That means you missed a key part of the discovery conversation.
If we want to stop overcoming objections, we need to avoid the objections in the first place when we implement solution selling. We need to address the concerns prospects have at the start, so that way they don’t come up at the very end of a conversation.
25. Never Go Past 60 Seconds.
This is one of my new favorite pieces of data from an organization called Gong.io, which has analyzed millions of selling conversations using artificial intelligence algorithms. They found that no successful sales presentations went past about 100 seconds of monologue on the part of the salesperson.
My advice to you is that if you want to be successful at solution selling, you should never talk for more than 60 seconds in a sales presentation before looping the prospect back into the conversation.
This can be really simple: “Before I go any further, I just want to make sure are we’re still on the same page. Does all this make sense?”
What we’re doing is we’re pulling them back in every 60 seconds with tiny questions or “feedback loops.”
26. Focus on the Value of your Solution.
This is another major difference between solution selling and traditional selling. While old-school selling tells us to focus on the features and benefits of our products, solution selling tells us to focus on the value of our solution.
We want to clarify how our solution will positively impact the life of the prospect. That’s it.
When it comes to solution selling, we want to focus on value, not numbers.
Say something like, “Hey, you mentioned that solving these challenges could potentially increase sales by about $10 million. Here is how we could possibly allocate that sales growth. This is how we can accomplish that.”
You’re getting into the specifics about how your solution is going to positively impact their life, and how it’s going to positively impact their organization.
27. Keep the Presentation Short.
This cannot be overstated. If you’ve done a good job in discovery during solution selling, all you have to do is give a short presentation that just shows you know how to solve their problems, and then stop.
Don’t go any further; only present to the challenges that they mentioned.
Keep that presentation short.
28. Make it a Back-and-Forth.
I mentioned this earlier, but it’s so important to solution selling that I want to mention it again. You presentation should always be a conversation, not a monologue.
Data shows that top salespeople are having a lot more back-and-forth in the presentation than average and bottom performers. We want to make this a true two-way dialogue. Keep engaging the prospect in that conversation if you want to be successful at solution selling. Back and forth, back and forth.
29. Establish Next Steps.
Have you ever been in a selling situation where everything was going great…but then you never schedule a next step at the end of the call, vaguely say you’ll reach out to them sometime next week, and you never speak with the prospect again?
This is far too common in solution selling, and it can all be prevented by simply establishing next steps. I want you to get used to saying this one phrase: “Do you have your calendar on you?”
Let me repeat that: “Do you have your calendar on you?” (By the way, in today’s world, 100% of of buyers have their calendars on them. It’s called their phone. It’s called their computer.)
Get in their calendar by sending a calendar invite. If you do this simple step in solution selling, you’ll hold onto so many more sales.
Bonus Tip #1: Build a connection.
When it comes to solution selling, it’s so important that you build a connection with the prospect early on in the discovery phase.
There are many ways to build rapport with prospects, but some are better than others. In fact, there are several techniques that have been scientifically proven to help you build a connection with prospects in solution selling interactions.
First, you want to match your prospect vocally and in vibe. Pay attention to how your prospect sounds and how their presence feels in the room. Then, make small tweaks to your own behavior and style to mirror them.
Next, you can build connection by “breaking the pattern” and showing the prospect you’re different from other salespeople. Do whatever you can to set yourself apart from the competition, taking an approach that will be unexpected by the prospect.
You should also remember to focus exclusively on the prospect when solution selling. Don’t drone on about your product or service. Instead, make a concerted effort to learn all you can about the prospect and how you can help them.
And finally, use feedback loops. Ask little questions every 45 seconds or so to loop the prospect back into the conversation, such as “Does that make sense?” and “Do you see what I’m saying?”
Bonus Tip #2: Start strong.
Salespeople who use solution selling often ask me, “How do I start an effective conversation with prospects? I just can’t seem to get it going.”
This is a great question, and a huge challenge for most salespeople. Starting strong at the beginning of the interaction is critical to successful solution selling, after all.
A few ways you can be sure to start strong are to show your expertise up front, list common challenges the prospect will relate to, engage the prospect with a question, and lead with what you’re seeing today in the marketplace.
Bonus Tip #3: Understand decision-making.
You can’t be successful at solution selling if you never take time to understand the prospect’s decision-making process. It’s that simple.
You’ll keep getting objection after objection if you fail to establish whether the prospect is the decision maker, how the organization makes decisions, and other key factors about decision-making.
Ideally, you will ask questions about decision-making early on in the solution selling process so you don’t get too far with the wrong prospect, making it difficult to turn the conversation over to the real decision maker.
Bonus Tip #4: Sell high.
Solution selling is always better the higher up you sell. This is true for virtually all sales: You want to sell to the highest level prospect you can find.
Don’t shy away from going after C-level prospects or prospects with higher titles than you’re used to speaking with. Talk to them like a peer and present yourself as an expert who can help them solve their top challenges.
If you keep solution selling to low-level buyers, you’ll never reach your full potential and crush your sales quota. Start selling high.
Bonus Tip #5: Stop worrying about getting a “yes.”
We all love to hear “yes” in sales, but solution selling isn’t about getting positive reactions all the time.
In fact, in order to disqualify prospects who aren’t a good fit—which is critical to solution selling—you need to hear “no” quite often.
Get comfortable with “no” and you’ll get better at solution selling.
The more prospects who tell you “no,” the more time and resources you’ll have available to focus on truly qualified prospects who will tell you “yes”—so stop dreading rejection and embrace disqualification.
So there you have it. Now you’ve learned the best solution selling tips in the ultimate guide to solution selling. Which of these selling tips are you going to implement into your solution selling approach? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below to join the conversation.
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About the Author Marc Wayshak
Marc is is the best-selling author of three books on sales and leadership, including the highly acclaimed titles Game Plan Selling, The High-Velocity Sales Organization and his forthcoming book, Sales Conversations, Mastered.
Marc is a contributor to Inc, HubSpot, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Huffington Post Business. He also hosts a popular YouTube channel on sales strategy with over 103,000 subscribers.
Marc helps thousands of people his data-driven, science-based approach to selling that utilizes all the best tools available to sales organizations today.