So, now you know the difference between products and solutions, and you know the advantages of a more comprehensive service and hardware sales solution. But knowing what solutions are and understanding that you should be offering them to clients isn’t enough. Actually putting into practice the process of scoping custom solutions that delight your customers is another task entirely. And even if you are eager to get away from selling products and move to enterprise solution selling, it isn’t as easy as just waking up one morning and deciding to chart a new course for your business. Enterprise solution selling requires more complex thinking and a different mindset.  Here are five strategic actions you can take to make enterprise solution selling a reality for your organization.

Meetings are a chance to learn about the client

Spend more time listening and less time talking.
Image courtesy of Beth Keller

1. Listen  – It’s startling how many professional salespeople talk more than the client in a sales meeting. How can you learn what the client needs when you are the one talking?  “I already know that,” you might be saying as you read this. Well, solutions selling requires the kind of patience and attention that you aren’t likely used to. You aren’t meeting with a potential client to have a conversation. You are there to learn about the challenges they are facing with their technology, and the best way to learn is to close your mouth and open your ears and eyes.  If you do feel compelled to talk, do so in a way that furthers the conversation.  “Your server went down last spring…tell me what happened next? Did you have a plan in place to recover the data?  How long were you unable to work?  Wow, that’s amazing…then what happened?”

2. Refuse to take the order today – As counter-intuitive as it seems, you are in no position to sell anything to your client today.  If you are only just beginning to learn about their technical challenges, you absolutely must resist the urge to sell them anything in the short-term that doesn’t factor into your overall solution.  Creating solutions that address the customer’s needs means discarding your immediate ideas about what they should buy from you today. Maybe they need a server refresh, or maybe you see that they are still using workstations powered by Windows XP and an upgrade is well-advised. It’s certainly a good idea to make note of these things, but before you start creating quotes and asking for purchase orders, make sure you fully understand not just those needs, but the other technological challenges the customer will be facing in the coming months. Rather then being over-eager to sell something and make a dollar, slow down and understand the customer’s full needs and goals. New opportunities will present themselves.

3. Be Honest – The biggest order I ever won on a solution was one where the entire network security strategy was given to another vendor…by my recommendation. The solution you offer and ultimately provide is your new calling card when it comes to the client. When they think of you, they will think of the challenges you promised to help solve and the work you are doing.  As such, it is important that their experience be one that absolutely exceeds their expectations. If there is a technical need that you are not adept to address, do NOT try and integrate it into your solution. If there is a resource commitment that you cannot make, don’t commit to it as part of your offering.  Yes, you want to give the customer a comprehensive offering. But operating outside of your expertise will allow a weak link in your solution to manifest and reflect poorly on you.  Looking out for the client’s best interest by being honest about your capabilities is much more important then shutting out every other vendor they are considering.

Solution and problem solving

Scoping a solution doesn’t have to be difficult.
Image courtesy of Sqaki.

4. Engage outside partners – Similar to being honest about your capabilities, you have to be open to the fact that your solution may not, in fact, be the best for the client. Remember: you are working for them and their best interest is your driving motivation. Working with outside partners not only builds future goodwill but also exponentially expands your capabilities. From services to security to training to hardware implementation, most every other company in the IT field is open to working with other companies. Why wouldn’t you want to engage the best resources and partners available to deliver the RIGHT solution for your customer?

5. Think outside the box – This can be difficult, particularly if you are used to selling IT as a commodity. Sometimes a smaller solution can be the gateway to a large opportunity in the future.  Sometimes standing up and saying, “We are eager to work with you but this isn’t the right fit right now. Let’s stay in touch,” will gain more trust than pushing the wrong service to a client.  Ask outside parties to review your solution and critique it.  Ask mentors, “What would you do differently here?” Be open to learning not only from the client, but also from other successful IT professionals.  There are often a number of different ways to solve a technology problem – why did you choose this particular way?  Is there a better way?  A less expensive way? An easier way?  Challenging your own assumptions about what technology should look like for the client is a great way to put yourself in their shoes and ultimately arrive at the right offering at the right time for the right customer.

Selling solutions requires breaking down old sales habits and that can be hard.  But it doesn’t have to feel impossible if you simply embrace some different ways of thinking and different approaches to working with a client.  The absolute worst way to sell a solution is to think that any part of the process is about you.  The client shouldn’t be burdened with worrying about you making your quota or selling a few more server units or demoing your new product line.  Those things are your problems and you are there to work on your client’s problems. The magical thing is that if you work hard for your clients, those challenges you face will start to decay and disappear altogether. Why not give it a try?

If you need a trustworthy partner to engage as you begin thinking about new ways to tackle technological challenges, contact Mosaic Networx to learn about how they can help you get to the right solution.