This is an excellent article from a magazine I recieve – Business Solutions. The article below is from the Sept 2005 edition, p 14
Stop Selling Products And Services
Business Solutions, September 2005
Written by Megan Burns
One of the things I love about my job is talking with VARs and integrators, learning what successful resellers are doing, and sharing that wisdom with our readers. Some VARs have developed a niche in helping local governments obtain government financing, others are thriving in the education market, and still others are developing custom software to address a market need. The common thread is these companies don’t simply sell a product or service. I’m serious – they don’t. The successful VARs and integrators I speak with every week are selling solutions to customer problems.
Sometimes, your customer may not even know what his true problem is. In this case, investing some extra effort up front can pay off with a bigger sale. We recently featured an installation review of an integrator whose customer wanted to deploy wireless notebooks to all of its field technicians. The integrator, instead of taking the easy route and selling the company the notebooks it thought it wanted, asked a few pointed questions and spent some time riding around with the field technicians, observing how they performed their daily tasks. The integrator learned that the company not only didn’t need wireless notebooks, but its network infrastructure couldn’t support the desktops and applications it was already running. The integrator proposed upgrading the network, adding some uninterruptible power supplies and battery packs, improving the software applications, and then – in phase five of the project – deploying wireless tablets.
Understand Your Customer’s Problem Better Than He Does
This integrator turned what could have been a decent sale into a high-margin implementation encompassing multiple technologies and a long-term relationship with the customer. What are the secrets to this kind of success? First, do your homework. Instead of taking your customer’s word for it, spend the time to find out what he really needs. Second, explain to the customer that, to prepare the best solution for his organization, you need to talk with people in his organization. Talk with end users who have influence on the project and who can provide operational insight. Understand their goals for the project and their ideas for a solution. This is where you are going to build consensus for your solution. Third, examine the customer’s costs and the consequences of the problem so you can present the total cost of the problem you are going to solve.
When you finally present your proposed solution, discuss the results of your evaluation, thoroughly describe the total cost of the customer’s problem, and don’t forget to also cover the cost of implementing your solution (i.e. process changes, adding or eliminating employees, or training costs). This process is much more effective than focusing on the features and benefits of the solution and downplaying the changes or impact it will have on the customer. Plus, you will avoid having customers that feel misled or frustrated when the solution falls short of their expectations.
An open, interactive process creates trust and transparency and gives the customer confidence to purchase. By adopting this kind of approach, your customers will stop seeing you as simply a seller of products and services and will instead see you as a trusted partner.