In the past several months, a verbal firestorm has ignited over the topic of “solution selling” – what it is, what it isn’t, and whether it still has relevance as a sales methodology. These sometimes contentious debates have been largely driven by materials recently authored by the Sales Executive Council, including blog content, presentations, and a recent Harvard Business Review article entitled, “The End of Solution Sales.” Essentially, the premise of their writing is that, based on extensive research for global companies, a large number of sales organizations are practicing what they call “solution selling.” In chart form, they describe five attributes of how they have observed these organizations selling, and then contrast this observed approach to something they refer to as “Insight Selling.”
Nothing wrong with a little research, but the problem with this comparative exercise is that there is an actual federally registered trademark, federal copyright, and documented sales methodology called Solution Selling®. Unfortunately, regardless of intent, the attributes ascribed to “Solution Selling” in the article and associated chart don’t remotely resemble what the documented methodology actually teaches. In some cases, they are the antithesis of what is taught. And, that’s why we’ve been getting calls and e-mails from knowledgeable sales experts and professionals asking what in the world is going on here.
So, we’re left with the task of clarifying to the marketplace the difference between some generic definition of “traditional solution selling” and what the methodology actually teaches. In Part 1 of this series, we will focus on five specific characteristics attributed to “Solution Selling” described in a chart in the article, as illustrated below, and contrast those attributes with what is actually taught in the Solution Selling® methodology.
We hope this clarifies what the Solution Selling® methodology actually teaches regarding some key aspects of the sales approach. In Part 2 of this series, we will review three sales strategies discussed in the article, and relate how Solution Selling actually supports, versus conflicts with the suggested approach.