Surviving the Demise of Solution Selling

How protocols will change the sales process and impact sales leadership.

Ken Thoreson

I recently read an article about the demise of solution selling. It described how salespeople who follow the traditional methods of selling (seeking out the pain) are losing to the new breed of “sales disrupters.” These are salespeople who find solutions to business problems that prospects were not even aware they had. As a result, they create increased levels of confidence with the prospect, leaving the traditional salesperson in the dust.

The article made enough of an impression that I began to ponder the future of sales management and how traditional metrics, sales process, recruiting, training, and coaching will need to adapt to the new sales landscape. 

This new sales environment impacts business drivers of profitability. The need to increase the velocity of the traditional sales transaction not only drives productivity to ensure cost-of-sales levels are maintained or lowered, but also minimizes “sales disruption.” Commodization of products/services in almost every industry is making profitable growth more difficult. For example, in the technology sector, we see cloud offerings and Google applications driving down prices and margins. 

Change for Gain

How does sales leadership change to achieve greater productivity? We can look to healthcare for some help. While there are certainly inefficiencies in our healthcare system, it has embraced innovative technology to become more efficient in many areas. The use of medical protocols, the power of computers, and database management has enabled medical researchers to create personalized medical treatment plans based on variable data points.

Related: The Ultimate Sales Strategy: Discovering Business Guidance Value

As an example, if you are a male or female in a certain age range, of a certain nationality and with or without diabetes, different heath treatment plans/protocols for a heart problem can be custom created based on successful historical patterns. Sales leadership can incorporate this same idea to begin creating custom sales plans for differing sales situations.

The Future

CRM systems linked to business intelligence (BI) software and a variety of data points can create custom sales processes/protocols designed to expedite sales and increase sales productivity. Traditionally, sales trainers teach the sales process must be in alignment with the buying process, which true. However, the Internet has made buyers more knowledgeable about our products/services, which requires altering the sales process.

How will linking CRM/BI allow sales leaders and salespeople to change the game on competition as well as prospects? Sales management must design systems that take into consideration prospect variables or data points. While these variables may vary some from industry to industry, there are fundamental data points that can be used to build a unique sales protocol. These can be captured from any CRM database or, similar to an initial consultation with a physician, a salesperson can gather the data on the initial call or appointment. These points may include:

  • New or existing client
  • Job position/decision maker
  • Length of time with the company
  • Composition of decision making team
  • Decision target date
  • Personality/management style
  • Complexity level of the sale or transaction
  • Pains to be alleviated
  • Current solution provider

Once these data points are captured, an application can be created to access the specific sales situation, validate it against an historical database, and identify a preferred pathway that includes proper sales tools, a predefined sales process and recommended sales protocols.