Sales rep’s nightmare – selling the solution and losing the sale

Selling the solution, but losing the sale

The last couple of years have produced a number of challenges for those engaged in the B2B market.  Some of the problems will be temporary and as the economy improves the challenge will fade – while others will become new permanent fixtures on the landscape.  Let’s examine a scenario that highlights one that falls into the latter category.

You have been working with a new potential customer for several months. You have spent a lot of time in the account because it is a significant opportunity. You have talked with all the key players and you and the customer have a shared vision of the problem.  You know the competition will be tough so you have spent the time to differentiate yourself from the other two competitors.

Several weeks ago you presented your solution and the feedback was extremely positive.  The key decision maker told you after the session that your solution was not only responsive but also technically and operationally better than what the competitors had proposed.  You have had several subsequent conversations but the sale has absolutely stalled – nobody has given any signals about moving ahead.

While this dilemma is not new, it has occurred with more frequency over the last two years. This nightmare was well analyzed in an article we recently came across by Bob Apollo.  The author noted: “in today’s risk-averse environment when you are selling a major solution you – need to conduct two sales: the first involves persuading the prospect that they cannot afford not to address the issue. The second sale involves persuading them that your solution offers the most effective approach to solving the problem. If you win the “second sale” without addressing the first, the most likely outcome is that you will get selected, but you won’t get bought.”

So let’s explore the first sale.  The first sale is all about making the business case.  The customer needs to see the economic value of your solution as compared to the status quo.

Selling economic value is all about demonstrating in quantifiable terms how your solution can address the business results desired by the customer.  It involves making a clear connection between the benefits of your solution and the measurable business outcomes that matter to the customer.  It includes contrasting the risks associated with your solution versus the risk of doing nothing.  It compares the costs of your solution versus how you are equipping the customer to spend less or sell more.

As Bob Apollo so artfully described it – you need to “monetize their pain.”  If you are not successful you are likely to be selected but not brought – a nightmare in anyone’s book.

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©2012 Sales Horizons, LLC

About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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