For the past 40 years, every sales trainer and guru in the world has been teaching some variation on “solution selling.”
As you’re probably already aware, solution selling consists of solving a customer’s problem rather than selling the customer a product. You ask questions to find out what’s really needed and then propose a solution to satisfy those needs.
The opposite of solution selling is “spray-and-pray” selling, which consists of dumping information on the customer and expecting the customer to figure out what’s useful or important.
Given that solution selling has been around so long, you’d think that spray-and-pray selling would be a thing of the past. You’d think wrong, though. Spray-and-pray is alive and well inside many companies.
For example, I recently called an online conferencing vendor and asked a simple question: “How can I give a webinar where attendees pay to attend?”
What I wanted to hear was: “Here’s how simple it is (demo), and here’s how much it costs (price quote).” Instead, I was asked to provide my phone number so a salesperson could call me back. Then, when he did call me later that day, he:
- Raised some issues that hadn’t occurred to me.
- Explained some capabilities that I didn’t care about.
- Insisted upon sending me a written quote.
- In the written quote, pitched a trial usage.
- Under the written quote, pointed me at a page with 12 training videos on it.
- Asked for another telephone meeting.
- Sent a reminder email about the telephone meeting he’d proposed.
I responded as follows:
Just a quick sales pointer… Like most customers, I usually feel overwhelmed with too much information. Directing me to a page with a dozen videos has the opposite effect that you want. It makes me think that the application is complex and will take a long time to learn and use.
If possible I need you to focus on what *I* need specifically, not everything I could ever possibly need. I want to give a webinar and charge for it, with the absolute minimum of hassle.
I have enough on my hands thinking about the content; I don’t want to think about the mechanics, except the barest minimum. Can you help me visualize how easy this is going to be? Because right now we’re headed in the opposite direction.
That was two days ago and I haven’t heard back from the guy. Maybe he was offended. Who knows? Was I asking too much? I think not.
If the salesman had proposed a solution to my problem that was simple and straightforward, the next sentence out of my mouth would have been: “How soon can we get started?” Instead, I’m checking out other vendors. (Suggestions welcome!)
I’d guess that from a quarter to a half of all B2B sales engagements are delayed or prevented by vendor-inflicted information overload. What’s ironic is that there are two well-known sales rules that, when followed, eliminate spray-and-pray selling:
- Never answer a question that the customer hasn’t asked.
- Never provide information that the customer hasn’t requested.
In other words–and I think I speak for most customers here–don’t make things more complicated. Just help me solve my problem.
By: Geoffrey James