Solution Selling vs Product Selling for B2B SaaS: What’s the Difference?
It’s easy to tell your customers that your product is the best, but equally difficult to explain if your prospect asks how? As a sales leader, you need to have a compelling pitch that must go beyond simply stating your product's features/benefits and more towards striking a relationship with the buyer, addressing his specific pain points and challenges.
Today’s modern buyers have rewritten the sales rulebook. Almost 44% of millennial buyers prefer no sales rep interaction and want to take the self-research route. However, when buyers choose to interact with sales reps, they expect to be guided through the buying process and provided with tailored solutions. Buyers want trusted advisors and not sellers!
“We have the best analytics platform that can outperform any other tool in this space, with AI features that will keep us ahead in the race”
After reading this, do you have anything to recall? All you can think of is “We are the best” and this is exactly the “hard sell” that buyers dislike. Where you put all your resources into selling the product rather than understanding the needs of your buyer.
In this article, we will dive deeper to understand what are the different approaches for selling, why solution selling has been the torchbearer, and how to adopt the best methodology for your growth.
The end of product selling: Why buyers made it non-relevant
Conventional product selling was a straightforward framework of identifying the buyers, focusing on what the product does and how it does it, and backing the sale with pricing tweaks to be better than competitors. Here the goals were clear – persuade the customer to purchase by highlighting its features and benefits irrespective of the challenges or solutions they need. All you had to do was hard sell and move on to the next opportunity!
This might have worked in the past however, over the years buyers took a major leap in the way they buy!
Buyers hate when they are sold but they love to be served.
Product selling was the predominant sales approach because it was often the easiest way to sell products. There were no long-term commitments to customers and sellers were used to instant gratification with fast selling. This was majorly due to uninformed buyers and standard products. Here are some advantages to product selling the sales reps used to enjoy:
Had clear value proposition: Much easier for sales professionals to communicate the benefits of the product to customers, a straightforward approach.
Offered Scalability: Product selling can be more scalable than other sales approaches, as it works well for standardized products to a broad market.
Shorter sales ramp time: Easier to train new sales professionals on, as it often involves memorizing product features, benefits, and pricing structures, rather than developing a more complex understanding of the customer's needs.
Not Resource Intensive: Less expensive than other sales approaches, such as solution selling, as it may require less specialized knowledge, tools, and resources to be effective.
Buyers were not as well informed about the products and technologies they were purchasing as they are today. They relied heavily on salespeople to provide them with information about products, and product selling was a way for salespeople to establish their credibility and build trust with the buyer. Even though sellers favored the approach the buyers disliked being sold every time. Here are a few reasons why buyers disliked the product-selling approach,
Limited buyer focus: Sales reps focus completely on the product perspective without necessarily taking into account the buyer’s unique needs, preferences, or pain points.
Lack of trust & credibility: Product selling scope never allowed the sellers to build trust or credibility with buyers. The focus was more on what than why!
Transactional and not relationship oriented: Product selling was more transactional in nature, which can make it harder for buyers to develop long-term relationships with organizations.
Overall, product selling was effective in the early years of B2B sales because it allowed salespeople to establish their expertise, demonstrate the value of the product, and transact. However, as the marketplace became more competitive and buyers became more informed, consultative selling approaches have become more effective in many situations.
Solution Selling vs Product Selling: How has solution selling paved its way forward?
As you know, in recent years buyer behavior shifted towards more consultative selling, which is a more collaborative approach that involves understanding the customer's needs and providing solutions that meet those needs. Buyers wanted sellers to coach them on how this product can help in achieving goals
A report from Salesforce states that 83% of potential buyers in recent times pay more attention to sales personnel assisting them on how to achieve their goals. Moreover, 79% of customers were more inclined toward sales reps acting as trusted advisors. Now this highlights the significance of solution selling and why buyers prefer it over the regular sales approach. A generic pitch deck is unlikely to capture the attention of buyers who have already educated themselves about your products, services, and company. To be effective in engaging, you need to equip your sales team with strong narratives, technology and skills to help buyers be confident in taking the leap.
Solution selling goes beyond just highlighting the features of a product and emphasizes providing solutions to meet the specific needs of customers. The goal is to understand what your clients need and how your product can fulfill those needs best. In solution selling you are the guide, leading the buyer through the journey and helping them make informed decisions. This is where buyer enablement comes in handy. By leveraging the right tools and resources, buyer enablement can help you better understand your customers' needs and preferences, and enable you to provide a more tailored, effective sales experience that adds value and drives conversions.
What are the advantages of Solution Selling?
Here are some significant advantages of solution selling,
Customer-centric: Customers are more likely to be happy with their purchase when they feel that their needs have been fully addressed and are assisted to achieve their goals.
Improved customer relationships: It enables building a deeper relationship with the customer based on trust, collaboration, and shared goals.
Increased revenue: By offering solutions that address the customer's specific pain points, sales teams can differentiate themselves from competitors and close more deals.
Improved sales efficiency: Helps to improve sales efficiency by focusing on the most promising opportunities and avoiding wasted effort on leads that are unlikely to convert.
Greater reputation: Build a reputation as a trusted advisor who can that help buyers visualise success. This leads to strong referrals and high customer retention.
What are the challenges to implementing solution selling?
Solution selling outweighs product selling in the areas that are most important from the buyer's perspective. However, it is not an easy approach to implement. Lets’s get talk about those challenges:.
The cultural shift: It requires salespeople to move from a product-centric approach to a customer-centric approach. Sales leaders need to ensure that the sales team, presales team, solution engineers, leadership, and management are well aligned with this shift and are committed to it.
Resource intensive - requires thorough training & enablement: Requires a high level of sales expertise and comprehensive training programs to help sales teams develop the necessary skills. This can be time-consuming for most teams as your sales reps need to be the product expert first to guide users better.
Need to align with your sales process: Requires changes to the sales process including discovery tasks, lead qualification, opportunity management, and closing. Sales leaders need to ensure that the sales process is aligned with the customer journey and that it supports the solution selling approach. Now this handling for multiple teams is challenging to make it seamless.
Sales reps performance measurement: Traditional sales metrics, such as the number of calls made, may not be relevant when implementing solution selling. Sales leaders need to identify relevant metrics that can help them monitor and improve individual and organizational revenue performance.
Inclusion of progressive technology: Solution selling when aligned with the buyer journey has multiple touchpoints and requires technology to achieve that. Use of technology to support the sales process, such as CRM systems, sales enablement tools, demo automation software and more. The challenge here is to train the sales team on these tools, ensure team collaboration, and return on investment.
Scaling the cumbersome process: Solution selling is not a straightforward process! It may be difficult to replicate the personalized, consultative approach across a large number of customers and different teams along with a plethora of tools.
📌Pro Tip: Using automation tools like Demoboost you can achieve scalability for personalized content within just a few clicks. Create, and share tailor-made interactive demos that can empower users with a comprehensive understanding of your product. You can even use additional features and add a narrative for buyers to connect better.
Solution Selling vs Product Selling: Topview Differentiation
Here’s an overview of serving the user (solution selling) vs selling the user (product selling). You can learn the key differentiation factors in these approaches here. However, there is no standardization and organizations may incorporate elements of both approaches depending on the specific customer or product being sold.
How to implement solution selling in your sales cycle?
Implementing solution selling in every stage of the sales cycle requires a comprehensive approach that should align with the customer journey. Here are the key steps to implementing solution selling in every stage
1st Stage – The Qualification & Discovery: The first step is to identify the right prospects who have a genuine need for the solutions you offer. In solution selling the sales reps need to understand buyer needs, pain points, and goals. This can be done through buyer research, Q&A emails, qualification forms with multiple fields or using modern technology like demo experience platforms.
🚀Pro Tip: Sales reps can speed up the process of qualification and discovery automation by using interactive demo platforms. As modern buyers prefer a self-guided approach, such platforms like Demoboost are catalysts for solution selling. You get,
Self-qualification features for buyers to access specific information
Demo libraries to automate discovery demos
Cloned product that works as an interactive demo for better engagement
Analytics to understand buyer insights, challenges, and needs
Such progressive technology powers up the modern solution selling approach and caters to the need of modern buyers.
2rd Stage – The Demo: The demonstration in solution selling approach is more buyer-centric and tailor-made based on the buyer's needs. Often in the sales process the buyer wanted to see several demos visualsing specific benefits. However, the major challenge here is to create customized demos at speed because buyers have more options otherwise, and explaining complex products with demos
🚀Pro Tip: Create personalized demos at speed with pre-defined templates using the Demoboosts platform. You can also get assistance for live demos with speaker notes and live demo analytics to help you master live demos and close deals.
Use pre-defined templates for instant delivery of personalised demo
Demo libraries to segment demos as per the use case/industry/persona
Cloned product that works as an interactive demo along with multimedia support
Demo insights to help you understand buyer behavior and engagement
3rd Stage – Objection Handling: Imagine a sales process without having any objections! Sounds like a dream, right? Buyers might mostly raise concerns with respect to pricing, urgency or gatekeeper objections, and more. In the solution selling approach, you need to address these sales objections by being proactive, providing detailed and relevant information and ease of access to any data your buyers might need to make an informed decision.
🚀Pro Tip: The key to effective objection handling is by ensuring you have addressed the buyer's needs and are sharing customized information. Leveraging demo automation platforms you can address every customer's need instantly without having to wait.
4th Stage – Closing the deal: In solution selling, the closing stage is always about coaching the buyer to make a purchase! How? Focus on relationship building with the buyers and other stakeholders involved, enable your champion user to elevate the product to internal stakeholders, and offer a customized experience to all stakeholders. Rest all leads to agreeing on terms and finalizing the contract!
🚀Pro Tip: Buyers are increasingly tech-savvy and have access to easily available information to diagnose every need they have. This is where interactive demo platforms can solve the problem by providing customized demo experiences for every stakeholder’s challenges. The best part is you can make it easily accessible to your buyers with custom demo libraries.
6-step approach for sales teams to follow for solution selling
1. Own your product and know the benefits it delivers inside-out:
As a salesperson, the first step here is to understand the product completely. Become a product specialist by learning how the product works, what is the scope of customization, how customer-requested features can be added and etc. Familiarise yourself with existing clients, how they use your tool, what benefits they are deriving from it. This will help you handle any questions that come across and will help you build trust with the buyer.
2. Research and understand the customer:
Create a set of questions that helps you dig deep into the buyer’s business and industry. Identify their pain points, challenges, and goals to get a clear understanding of their needs. You can do this by automation tools to speed up the discovery process and improve your productivity.
3. Focus on relationship building:
Build a relationship with the customer by establishing trust and credibility. Focus on their pain points and show a genuine interest in their success. Work closely with buyers and offer solutions that can help them visualize success.
4.Customize your offering:
Once you have a clear understanding of the customer's needs, customize a solution that meets their specific requirements. Avoid offering a one-size-fits-all solution and instead offer a tailored solution that fits the buyer’s unique situation.
5. Demonstrate the Value:
Demonstrate the value of your solution by showing how it can solve the buyer's pain points and achieve their goals. Use case studies, testimonials, or automation tools that showcase your product's value instantly
6. Handle Objections:
Finally, be prepared to handle sales objections from the customer. Address their concerns and show them how your solution can overcome any potential challenges or roadblocks. Become the trusted advisor all modern buyers need.
That’s all folks!
By taking a consultative approach that focuses on building relationships and understanding the customer's business, sales teams can establish themselves as trusted partners and advisors, creating long-term value for both the customer and the seller.
One way to enhance the solution selling process is by using demo experience platforms. Such platforms provide a dynamic and interactive way to showcase your product, allowing buyers to experience it in action and understand how it can solve their pain points.
In short, solution selling, combined with the power of demo experience platforms, can help sales professionals elevate their game and achieve revenue growth faster.
Want to implement effective solution selling? Get in touch with our growth consultant now!