Your objective in a transactional sale is to sell your product or service: “This is what I have, do you want it?” There’s nothing wrong with that, especially if you make the sale!
But if more business and a long-term relationship with clients is what you’re after, you need to think about selling solutions. Selling project solutions is a different objective, which requires a different approach: “What do you need? I’ll provide it for you.”
A relationship sale is based on your reputation with the client, with the rapport you can build up through communication, expertise and delivery of what you promise. If you build up a relationship with your clients, you can go beyond transactional sales into solution selling.
Relationship selling requires you to understand the buyer’s need and see the relationship between the need and the solution. When it’s done well, you and the buyer become partners in the process of finding the right product or solution that will solve a problem or otherwise benefit the buyer.
Basically, it’s the difference between selling a product or service vs. establishing a means for ongoing product sales or service. It’s also about helping the customer see the distinction between price and value. You want the customer to consider what you have to offer, not just in terms of how much it costs, but how much value your product has and will continue to have, to their business.
The Power of Three
A well-defined solution sales strategy will help you do three things:
1) Position yourself as a problem solver and solutions provider
2) Secure larger and more frequent sales from your customers
3) Offer high margin products and/or services along with the ones that may be considered commodities.
And the process has three steps:
1) Establish a clear understanding of the customer’s priorities and overall goals. This may require several meetings with people at multiple levels within the customer’s organization. Take the time.
2) Identify areas you can improve for the customer, whether you see specific problems to solve, performance gaps to close or areas in which your products can help them grow. Talk to top management on down to see if you can counteract deficiencies with the current vendor, introduce new technologies or educate the customer.
3) Connect your offer with the customer’s goals by laying it all out for them. Show them a direct link between your products/services and their needs. When you address precise problems and close specific performance gaps, you demonstrate your ability to be a solutions provider.
Transactional sales have their place, of course, but to create a more constant flow of business, solution sales are the way to go. Customers will focus on price until you demonstrate, clearly and with attention to their specific needs, the savings of a total solution.