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.

Robert Kear
Robert Kear, VP, Innovation Development

Robert Kear, VP of Innovation Development, has more than 30 years of extensive, hands-on experience in all facets of technology industry management, including marketing, sales methodology, software engineering, professional services deliver and P&L accountability.

Before joining Sales Performance International, Kear was Vice President of Marketing Strategy and CRM Strategy for JD Edwards & Company, where his role was the development and deployment of methodologies to drive value-based marketing disciplines. From 1994 to 2001, Kear was co-founder and chief strategy officer of YOUcentric, an enterprise customer relationship management (CRM) software company, where he was responsible for all aspects of corporate strategy, market planning and execution, and product direction.

Kear’s formative experience also includes technology and management positions at Broadway & Seymour, ITT Telecom and Wrangler. He holds advanced and undergraduate degrees in mathematics from East Carolina University.

Add Your Comment:


Having been a Solution Selling(c) associate and instructor in the past and not currently certified to teach the current version, Solution Selling does a great job of working with prospects who are past the stage of latent pain as the article suggests. Whether this is addressed in part 2 or in the future, it is a key point in implementing Solution Selling.

In today's marketplace, it can be very difficult to find someone who has no idea of their problem. With that in mind, Solution Selling does a great job in re-engineering the vision. This is not about finding the "hook" as much as it is in showing a differentiator. It can also be very effective in extending a vision beyond the customer's original vision. When differentiating or extending the visions, you can now increase the number of hurdles for your competitors to jump over to get back in the game.

Are there weaknesses in Solution Selling, certainly. Are there weaknesses in every other sales methodology, absolutely. There is no one magic bullet that will work for everyone. One thing that you can do is modify the Solutin Selling methodology as you learn from your wins and losses. The ability to integrate it into current SFA and CRM applications combined with additional training and implementation can help you coninually imporove and change as your market and buyers change,

Saying that it is now the end of solution sales or solution selling is ridiculous. Our propsects still have problems. Answers to their problems are still considered solutions. The key being it is their problems and they define the solutions. Solution Selling is an excellent methodology that can help organizations create the vision of a solution in their prospect's mind thereby winning the business.


Thanks for the insightful comment Jeff, stay tuned for part 2 coming soon.


I agree with Jeff,

In my business today I encounter potential clients in various stages from Latent Pain to those clients that have identified their Pain or Critical Business Issue and then have taken the time to research alternatives and approaches. For this reason I find Solution Selling very relevant than ever especially the ability to take an existing Vision and then reengineer that vision aligned to what my businesses differentiators are.

The other often overlooked element is to then work with the client to put together an evaluation plan. In the healthcare sector especially where the committee purchase is prevalent and Integrated Delivery Systems rule……………………engaging in a plan is the best way to "herd the cats" and actually get a handle on the predictability related to close date.

LIke Jeff said, there is no silver bullett and any company looking for results needs to assess their current approach and then take a step back and gap fill. This way the company solution is based upon best practices focused on the gaps found at the client company. No longer can companies just assume that you can take a sales process or methodolgy off the shelf and expect success.