Is Solution Selling Dead?
In an excellent article from the March 2009 Harvard Business Review, Philip Lay, Todd Hewlin, and Geoffrey Moore (Crossing the Chasm) suggest that “solution selling” is getting long in the tooth, and prospects are getting hardened to that approach. They are overwhelmed with suitors wanting to peer deeply into their eyes and ask open ended questions on “what keeps you awake at night?” In my own selling, I’m finding my prospects increasingly unmotivated by the classical solution selling approach. Even if I have an existing relationship or an introduction from someone they trust, I find their eyes glazing over quickly as I attempt a classical fact finding discussion.
Here is how the authors describe a more edgy alternative, “provocation based selling”:
“Provocation-based selling goes beyond the conventional consultative or solution-selling approach, whereby the vendor’s sales team seeks out current concerns in a question and-answer dialogue with customer managers. And it differs dramatically from the most common approach still in use—product based selling, which pushes features, functionality, and benefits, usually in a generic manner. Provocation-based selling helps customers see their competitive challenges in a new light that makes addressing specific painful problems unmistakably urgent. This approach isn’t right for every selling situation you’ll face in a downturn, nor does it apply only under challenging economic conditions. But for many companies that see their old approaches losing power, its time has come.”
Harvard Business Review, March 2009, “In a Downturn, Provoke Your Customers”
So what does this have to do with leading and developing our teams?
Our team members are our customers for our efforts to help them develop. We are competing for their attention and sense of urgency as they make decisions on where to spend their time and energy. Like their customers, they are overwhelmed with unmet quotas, reluctant prospects, and declining customer budgets.
As much as they want to please us, and grow, they are performing triage daily. We have to provoke them and build a case for the importance of investing in their development of their skills and effectiveness. They have to feel enough urgency around their development objectives to make time and dedicate resources.
As you approach your next one-on-one, how will you provoke them with the value proposition for personal development, and the compelling impact on them and their business if they fail to act?