The End of Solution Selling

By Dick Stark

It’s the end of traditional solution selling. Customers are increasingly circumventing reps; they’re using publicly available information to diagnose their own needs and turning to sophisticated procurement departments and third party purchasing consultants to help them extract the best possible deals from suppliers. The trend will only accelerate. For sales, this isn’t just another long, hot summer; its wholesale climate change.

                –Brent Adamson, et al., The End of Solution Sales, Harvard Business Review, July-August, 2012

In case you hadn’t noticed, selling, and especially solution selling, (which is what RightStar does) is getting more difficult. Budgets are very tight, and customers are looking at projects that return immediate value. Additionally, service management solutions are not often at the top of the short list which means waning interest and long sales cycles. Are we left to focus only on commodity sales where low price (and very low margin) wins?

Fortunately, according to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), the news is not all bad.  Selling is still happening, but it is evolving.  Sales reps must now, “seek out customers that are primed for change, challenge them with provocative insights, and coach them on how to buy.” Today’s buyers are not looking for solutions, they are looking for insights. And since RightStar is a consulting firm focused on becoming our customer’s trusted advisor in the service management space, this new selling strategy should play nicely at RightStar. Here are Adamson’s new selling strategies as they apply to RightStar.

(1) Avoid the trap of “established demand.”  At the beginning of all RightStar webinars we poll the audience and always ask about their level of ITIL maturity.  In one recent session, the results were: hight level—30%, no, but moving to ITIL—42%, and no plans to use ITIL—16%.  The obvious takeaway here is not to waste any time on both the mature and non-ITIL users.  Instead, focus on those customers planning to move to ITIL because demand is emerging, not established.  These accounts have not settled on a course of action and could be ripe for change. They should require ITIL consulting or training, and eventually software purchases or upgrades.

(2) Target Mobilizers, not Advocates. The HBR Article identified seven customer stakeholder profiles and identifed Go-Getters, Teachers, and Skeptics (collectively Mobilizers) as better at building consensus and driving the sale more than any other profile type. These are people that are engaged by big disruptive ideas and are looking at outside experts to share insights about what their company should do. Maybe a Go-Getter interested in consolidating applications and service desks into one.  Or, maybe building a service catalog, so that several help desk positions could be eliminated.

(3) Coach Customers on How to Buy.  According to Adamson, the “super star” sales reps, are actually responsible for assisting with the purchase process.  They can forsee likely objections and anticipate organizational politicking. Of course this works better with commercial rather than government customers, but an important goal is to get in early, rather than wait until an RFP is released.

In the end, I still believe that RightStar has to sell value, improved efficiency and customer satisfaction. But by acting as the customer’s trusted advisor, and working with organizations that truly understand the need for change, RightStar is in better shape, perhaps even than BMC, to affect change and capture the customer’s business.

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About dick1stark

I am the President, CEO, and founder of RightStar Systems, a leading IT consultancy and BMC Software Solution Provider and Atlassian Expert Partner. My passion is customer success—whether it’s reducing the cost of service management, improving overall efficiency, or increasing end-user or employee satisfaction. Since founding RightStar in 2003, RightStar has made the INC 5000 list four times. In 2011, RightStar was awarded the prestigious National Capital Business Ethics Award (NCBEA) by the Society of Financial Service Professionals based upon RightStar’s foundation of honesty, ethics, and integrity. And in 2014, RightStar was selected by Forrester Research as one of 13 North American companies profiled in its ITSM Consultancy Wave Report. Finally, in 2016, BMC selected RightStar as its 2015 Supplier of the Year for its consulting partnership and excellence in service delivery. Dick is a graduate of Stanford University and a Project Management Professional (PMP).
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