Is Your Business a Solution?

Early in the technology phase of my business career the market frenzy for new products was such that it was too easy to be technology or product and not solution centric when selling to customers.  We all recall how the rush to buy the next PC that came to market without understanding how we would economically benefit from it.  This was particularly significant when cheaper, high performing, models began to enter the market.

Selling Becomes More Complex
While we enjoyed the new PC experience the quiet question was, “Is this new tool a solution?”  Customers became less fascinated with the technology and focused on applying technology to solving a problem which reposed several questions to the sales process.

  • Did we understand what problem it solved?
  • As sales people did we really sell and solve a problem or take advantage of an appetite to buy satisfying a customer pressure to be the first to be “productive”?
  • Or, was it an opportunity to equip customers with hardware and related software that they did not really understand how to implement, integrate and optimize performance and maximize value to their business?

As the technology market matured the sales environment shifted from a focus on speeds and feeds of the product to whether or not the proposed “solution” solved a real problem and provided a tangible return on investment (ROI).  Customers became less emotional and more analytical in their technology decision-making and were determined to make a purchase decision based upon the ROI of the proposed system.

Solution Centric Selling
Sales people had to adjust their technique on how to creatively get their customer to reveal what kept them awake at night and what real problem (or pain) needed to be solved.  Mastery of basic accounting practices and productivity factors became essential in order to suggest how their solution produced a competitive ROI and an effective life cycle cost/benefit.  In addition, the objective of serving the customer was to clearly demonstrate how the proposed “solution” integrated into the existing company framework and, with a successful implementation, deliver results that met financial, business and customer expectations.

The Business as a Solution
Today’s global recession economy raises the ante in the solution selling game.  Where it used to be enough for the sales person to become successful in solution selling it is now an imperative for the entire business to demonstrate to the customer that it is a “solution.”

Businesses need to be multi-dimensional in terms of how they serve the customer from the time they first come in contact, through the sale and on into the after market.  The internet now equips the customer with the ability to investigate a companies credentials in a variety of ways – customer reviews, market reputation, professional contributions to the marketplace, utility and reputation of online services, etc.

Putting a professional and capable sales person in front of a customer is now just one step in what is necessary to present the company to a customer. While it used to be possible to package how you looked to a prospective customer – impressive sales person, high quality collateral, impressive product specs and carefully selected references.  No more!!

The emperor has few clothes to disguise who he is!

Business Model Imperative
Businesses wanting to be recognized as a solution by their customers invest in the development of their business model.  Ultimately it is the business model that the customer is buying into and all aspects of the business model need to be tuned to the interests of the customer.

Businesses that are recognized as solutions have business models where all resources of the company are aligned to serve the customer.  There is a tight linkage between tactical activities of all operations executed on a daily basis to achieve and sustain strategies that are directed at meeting customer needs today and in the future as well. Customers engaging with these companies quickly their experience is different than the rest of the market and that each function of the company that they deal with provides a solution that clearly solves a need for the customer.

What can you do to be a solution to your customers?

  1. Work on your business model to make sure it works for the customer.
  2. Make sure your customer sees you as a solution and not just a provider of products that they have to figure out how they are of value to them.
  3. Evaluate your strategic direction to see if it articulates a value proposition that will help the customer be more strategic in serving their customers.
  4. Survey prospects and existing customers to see if they see you as a solution.  Are you a valued and trusted partner or a commodity?
  5. Step back and examine how employees communicate with customers to see if they engage them in a manner to uncover one or more customer needs that can be addressed by one or more of the companies products and or services.
  6. Improve how your internal groups collaborate to facilitate timely and informative decisions and responses to your customer either directly or through your sales channel.

Becoming a solution is not a passing fancy of the market.  More and more we see the consolidation of suppliers of products and services by purchasing organizations with the winners being those who are viewed and regarded as solution providers.

Take advantage of this trend – be a leader and be a solution!

Comments

  1. Good stuff Mike. I just had a customer tell me yesterday (in a very honest and respectful way) that he views my service strictly as a commodity. I guess have some work to do.

  2. @Chris: It is good to get feedback like this from you customer (many would not take the time or be as pleasant) so that you can recalibrate your value proposition and how effectively you are delivering it. It is easy to assume that a customer intuitively understands your value and that it speaks for itself. Even though you may feel you are over doing it confirm that they recognize and understand your value.

  3. Good article Mr Mike. Apart from viewing as a solution provider, companies which go a step further and record and note the smallest and minute details of its customers definitely gain an edge especially in intensely competitive markets.

    I’d like to share a small note on the topic of business woes. Hope it helps business leaders and business decision makers.

    http://www.godlovesyou.page4.me/businessworries.html

  4. @julia: Thank you for your comment. Recording and noting customer behavior is a key component but the true measure of a “solution” company is the ability of the organization to process the information and to collaborate to take effective action in a timely manner to improve its competitive position.

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