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Selling the Solution, Not the Product

Editor's Note: Take a look at our featured best practice, Organization Design Toolkit (103-slide PowerPoint presentation). Recent McKinsey research surveyed a large set of global executives and suggests that many companies, these days, are in a nearly permanent state of organizational flux. A rise in efforts in Organizational Design is attributed to the accelerating pace of structural change generated by market [read more]

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alecbaldwinSelling can be sleazy when it’s manipulative. “Let me convince you to do something, so I’ll get what I want.”

If you want to grow your business, and feel good about yourself at the same time, it’s necessary to change the way you think about “selling.”

Everyone buys things. If you provide a product or service that has real value and helps people solve real problems, there is someone who will want to buy it. That someone is struggling with the problem you’re prepared to solve. They wouldn’t want a solution if solving the problem wasn’t important to them. So if you can help them solve their problem and do a good job of it, you have become their new best friend. They not only will want to buy what you have to sell, they will want to buy from you again and again because now they have begun to trust that you are someone who can help them solve their problems.

When you are able to shift your thinking from “I’m selling something” to “I’m serving someone by helping them solve a problem that they care about,” you’ll find yourself feeling great when that someone buys your stuff.

I have developed 5 ways to make that shift.

Step #1 – Be Clear on the Value You Offer

It all begins with you understanding; what are the problems you are uniquely qualified to help your clients or customers solve?

But you can’t stop there. What problems does your product or service address? What resources do you bring to help your customer/client solve those problems? Why should people believe that your proposed solution really works?

Make a list of the problems and then list how your product or service solves each problem. Make a list of the resources your customer or client will have at their disposal when they purchase your product or service. Then gather testimonials, endorsements, case studies and anything else that will demonstrate your solution really works.

It’s been found that people are 10 times more likely to respond to a solution to a problem they have than they will to an opportunity to achieve something they want. So, make sure you really understand how you can help others solve their problems.

Step #2 – Understand Your Client or Customer’s “Critical Need”

Once you’ve understood, in general, the types of problems you are uniquely qualified to solve, the next step is to understand who has those sorts of problems and would be attracted to your particular solution.

You may think that everyone needs what you have, but that’s never true. Even if we assume everyone has the problem you’re solving, only certain types of people will be attracted to the way you solve it.

Apple has done an amazing job of helping people solve problems they didn’t even know they had–like the ability to carry their entire music library with them in a pocket size device, or to watch TV shows or videos on a book size device. Most people will agree that Apple’s products are good quality. And just about everyone wants to listen to music or watch videos these days, but not everyone is going to buy an Apple iPod, iPhone or iPad. For some the products are too expensive. For others, the products don’t go well with other equipment they already use. Apple’s success has been successfully targeting people who are willing to pay more for a product that helps them feel special and unique while being useful at the same time.

My name is “Grant Stanley” and my entire focus has been building on the alliances I’ve been able to make with influential people in many industries. What I’ve learned is that you can connect with anyone, no matter how famous, how successful, or how inaccessible they may be, when you can identify their “critical need.”

I define my perfect alliance partner as “that person or organisation for whom you are uniquely qualified to fulfill their most critical need and in fulfilling that need you fulfill your own critical need at the same time.”

You’re in the business of solving problems.  Step #2 is about finding the people who have those problems and consider them significant enough that they’re willing to pay to solve them.

Step #3 – Build Trust

People will only buy from or work with people they trust. These days, building trust begins by establishing a relationship with people who have the problems you are prepared to solve. You build trust by getting testimonials, endorsements, or case studies from people who have benefited from your products or services. You can also build trust by demonstrating you have had success in the past. And you can build trust by offering knowledge, service, or even products for free so that your potential customers and clients have the chance to see how well you can help them solve their problems.

Step #4 – Remove the Perception of Risk

Whenever someone purchases something there is a risk that it won’t serve their needs. To the extent you can show others that the risk that your product or service will not provide the promised value is very low, the more likely it is that people will be willing to invest in what you offer them.

One simple way to reduce risk is to offer a guarantee. If they’re not happy, they can return the product or service and get a refund within some period of time. A guarantee allows the customer to see if the promise matches up to their experience.

But you can reduce risk in other ways as well. You can offer additional bonuses and extras for free so the value customers receive is so much greater than what they’re paying that they feel the risk of not being satisfied is low.

The more you build your reputation, the less risky people will feel about doing business with you. When you have endorsements or support from well-known or trusted authorities, you inspire confidence that you can deliver on your promises.

Step #5 – Genuinely Care About Your Customer

This is Hugely Important!

When you see yourself as “serving” rather than “selling” then you let go of your attachment to “making the sale.” Your focus and concern is with making sure that your customer really has a need you (or your products and services) are uniquely qualified to fulfil. This is the place where the Golden Rule comes in: treat your customers as you would want to be treated. Your job is no longer trying to sell to anyone. It becomes identifying people who have problems you can solve. These are the people you are here to serve and serving them becomes fun!

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About Grant Stanley

Grant Stanley is an experienced Sales & Marketing Leader with over 20+ years coaching, training, and developing New and Existing Business. With experience in IT, Telecom, Capital Equipment, and FMCG, Grant shares his business experiences and expertise on his blog, CSM Consultants (Inspiring & Enabling Change). Grant is also an author on Flevy, where he has published materials from Business Fundamentals to Management and Leadership Excellence. Take a look at all of Grant's Flevy best practice documents here. You can also connect with Grant Stanley on LinkedIn here.

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