I spent nearly 15 years in the tech sector selling a combination of infrastructure software and applications.
In that sector we love the phrase ‘solution provider’.
Now, nearly every industry has morphed themselves into solution providers. Unfortunately, the more you claim you are a solution provider, the less you are likely to sell.
I’ve been exposed to that term for 30 years and I still do not know what it means. But, what I know for absolute certain is this, customers are not looking for solution providers.
I just googled the term ‘solution provider’ and found 339 million search results. There is even a solution provider 500 list. Here’s what the web blurb says ‘The Solution Provider 500 is our annual ranking of the top solution provider organizations in North America, ranked by revenue’.
Think about it this way. If you are feeling unwell and are experiencing certain physical symptoms. Which of the two are you most likely to do?
- SYMPTOMS: Go onto Google and key in various combinations of your symptoms and see if you can find more information on your health issues?
- PRESCRIPTION: Or, are you likely to key in a potential drug prescription and see if that drug prescription will help you resolve your issues.
Customers are like patients. They want to start the conversation with an accurate diagnosis. They are only interested in entering a conversation about the prescription (a.k.a. the solution) once there is an agreement on the diagnosis.
If you think about it logically, you know this makes complete sense.
Steve Blank is a Silicon Valley serial-entrepreneur and academician who is based in California. Blank is recognized for developing the Customer Development methodology, which launched the Lean Startup movement.
In his world, he is constantly exposed to the inner workings of start-up and fast growth companies. In his book he had this to say…
“Before we can sell a product, we have to ask and answer some very basic questions:
What are the problems our products solve?
Does the customer perceive these problems as important or ‘must have’?
If we are selling to businesses, who in the company has a problem our product could solve?
How big is this problem?”
His point is simple.
Solutions have no inherent value… solutions are only solutions when they solve an acknowledged problem that the prospect wants to fix and is willing to allocate resources to fixing.
I can’t see how it’s possible to claim to be a solution provider. From the customer’s perspective they are looking for providers who have a deep understanding of the issues they are facing, and who can help them resolve them.
The understanding of the customer situation has to come first.
The solution can only exist in the context of the issues the client is trying to resolve.
So, my suggestion to you would be this…
Stop trying to persuade your potential clients that you have great solutions.
Instead, listen deeply for the issues they are trying to resolve.
Potential customers will be a lot more open to a potential solution, after they are convinced you have a deep understanding of the issues they are grappling with.
Said another way…
… Stay on the problem and stay off the solution.
FREE Resource: I produced a special CONSULTATIVE SELLING CHEAT SHEET that I give my private clients to use. It includes the ‘6 Issues Questions’ you must use in every prospect meeting if you want to sell on value instead of selling on price. You can download it for free using this link.