In the previous module, we introduced you to the sales process. This process is based on certain sales principles that are used consistently by Eagle salespeople. In Module 2, we will learn about the underlying concepts and principles that serve as the basis for Solution Selling.
When you’ve completed this module, you should be able to:
Describe thirteen guiding principles that surround Solution Selling;
Explain how critical business issues ripple through an organization;
Below are the Thirteen Basic Principles that will be covered in this module. Some principles will be covered in depth while others will be highlighted with additional content to come in the modules that follow.
No pain, no change.
Pain flows throughout an entire organization.
You can’t sell to someone who can’t buy.
There are three levels of buyer need.
People make emotional decisions for logical reasons.
People buy from people.
Power buys from power.
Diagnose before you prescribe.
The solution must equal the buying vision.
The best relationships are based on value.
Make yourself equal before you make yourself different.
Don’t close before it's closeable.
If you’re not ready to walk, you’re not ready to sell.
Pain is important to sellers because it provides a compelling reason for buyers to change.
When people are happy with the way things are, they have little reason to make changes and buy something.
Your job as a seller is to identify your buyer’s pain, so you can relieve their discomfort with your product or service. Of course, you will not want to use the word “pain” in front of your customer. Instead, talk about “critical business issues” or “potential missed opportunities.”
Individuals, not organizations, experience pain. Pain can arise from poor performance around tasks individuals were hired to do, are measured on, and could be fired for not doing well. People rarely get upset about—or take action on—things they are not directly responsible for.
Pain is felt by individual people. But it flows from an individual throughout the entire organization. That’s because organizations are highly interdependent. The activities, morale and performance of one group affect the whole. If you resolve the pain of one group, everybody benefits.
Here’s how a Pain Chain™ works, starting at the bottom. Notice how the VP of Marketing’s pain of declining customer base becomes a reason for pain of the VP of Sales. The VP of Sales’ pain of eroding sales revenue drives up to cause eroding profits for the CFO. By the time the pain has reached the CEO, it has impacted shareholder value.
If you can help resolve pain, you make everybody happier.
Click here to download a Pain Chain™ template, which you can use to chart pain throughout your buyers’ organizations.
A Pain Chain™ becomes a living document, which you will refine over time as more information becomes available. It is most useful at three key points in the sales cycle:
Before starting an opportunity —Use analysis from key players, prior situations or likely issues provided by your marketing team to sketch out a Pain Chain™ for pre-call planning. This provides a starting point for dialogue.
While engaged in an opportunity —A Pain Chain™ is a tool for navigating through an organization, validating information that emerges, and conducting conversations during vision processing. Modify it as you gather information.
To bring closure —The Pain Chain™ helps you focus on all key players, their pains, and how they are all interrelated. You can demonstrate to a buying committee (or group of customer key players) how to address their pains with the offerings that you provide.
Basic Principle #3: You Can’t Sell If They Can’t Buy
Salespeople find buyers at all different levels of need. The key is to recognize where your buyer is, so that you will know which tactic to use:
Latent Pain : The buyer is not actively attempting to address the problem, and may be unaware that a potential solution even exists. Or they may have failed at previous attempts to solve the problem, and therefore view other solutions as too expensive, complicated or risky.
(Admitted) Pain : The buyer is willing to discuss problems, difficulties or dissatisfaction with their existing situation. The buyer admits the problem but does not know how to solve it.
Vision : The buyer accepts responsibility for solving the problem, can visualize the details of a solution, and understands how it will address their pain.
“ I’m just looking,” Stephen replied. Some of the new phones had caught his eye as he walked past the window, and he just wanted to browse. His current phone was a couple of years old now, and he was curious about what the new phones offered.
The salesperson noticed the logo on Stephen’s bag, and the older phone clipped to Stephen’s belt. “Do you work at KLK Manufacturing?”
“ I’ll bet you get a lot of e-mail. Come take a look at this phone. You can get your e-mail on it at high bandwidth using 2.5-generation GSM/GPRS technology. You can’t do that now, can you?”
“ Uh, thanks,” Stephen said, shuffling towards the door, “but I was just looking.”
Stephen’s need was at the latent level. He does not believe that he needs a new phone. But the salesperson saw his older phone, figured Stephen was an executive, and recognized Stephen’s need before Stephen did. (And he was probably pleased with himself for doing that.)
So far, so good. But the salesperson moved too fast, making a recommendation and delving into technical features that were gibberish to Stephen.
Stephen is not motivated by features at this point. He won’t be ready to hear about features until he reaches the third level and has a vision for a solution.
The seller should have focused on getting Stephen moving from a possible latent pain (first level), to the second level (admitting his pain), and then to the third level (vision of a solution) before discussing features.
Basic Principle #5: People Make Emotional Decisions
Think of the last time you made a significant purchase, like a car. Admit it—you made your decision based on emotion—the excitement you felt holding the keys the first time, the thrill of being seen driving your new vehicle. Yet you justified your decision using logic. “It was a great deal.” “It gets terrific mileage.” “It’s a business expense.”
Your customers buy from you in the same way.
This example describes the concept of how buyers buy (from the prior module). Often companies are used as “column fodder” to help buyers provide logic to themselves and to their organization to justify an emotional decision they may have made.
Here are things you should avoid to keep from losing power in the sales process:
Conducting yourself as if the buyer is more important than you—there should be a sense of equality.
Using groveling phrases like “Thank you so much for your valuable time today”— implying that their time is more valuable than your own.
Don’t use “geek speak” (e.g. deep technical descriptions, impressive acronyms). Keep your language oriented toward solving business problems—especially when having conversations higher in the organization.
Correcting a colleague in front of the customer. Be sure to get the information presented correctly, but don’t do it at the expense of showing poor teamwork.
Acting as if you are smarter or have more authority than your buyer, in which case you will win the battle but lose the war.
Basic Principle #8: Diagnose Before You Prescribe
Let’s return to the car example from the earlier principle, People Make Emotional Decisions . When you go to buy the new car, you probably aren’t buying just “four wheels and some seats." You are probably trying to acquire the vision you had dreamed of, where you could see yourself driving down a scenic road on a nice summer day, with the radio on and the top down.
We have to help our buyers visualize how they will be different in the future as a result of implementing our offering. We also have a responsibility to not overstate the abilities of our offerings. Our offering ultimately must deliver the functionality that the buyer envisioned receiving.
It’s not about a salesperson telling a buyer all about their features and functions, but rather about describing how your customers see themselves using your offering. People buy visions because visions give buyers hope.
When we talk about a vision in Solution Selling, we’re referring to a concept in the buyer’s mind that articulates:
The basic components of an answer to pain
A particular point in time when this will occur
Specifics on who will do what
How the vision will eliminate reasons for pain
Here’s an example a seller might use with a VP of Marketing: “Since Marketing is currently having difficulties creating the right promotion for the right audience, wouldn’t it be great if during the planning of a promotion, you and your marketing team had a way to model or test the promotion’s potential effectiveness before even launching a campaign? That way you could utilize the latest market demographics for sample results indicating how the campaign would be received - you could tell if the promotion was correct for the audience you were targeting?”
When + Who + What + How buyer can address pain
Basic Principle #10: Relationships are Based on Value
Having a good relationship with a client is an important aspect in the customer-relationship. But sometimes a salesperson’s focus can be on the personal development of a relationship instead of on the development of the business relationship.
Imagine this scenario: Your longtime contact for your best customer organization leaves, retires, or is let go from the company. What would you say if the CFO came to you and asked you to describe the value that you and your selling organization had delivered to the firm for the last few years? This can be a tough situation unless you have constantly established and demonstrated customer-value along the way in the relationship.
The best sales relationships are always based (and sustained) on the value that you deliver—not on personal friendship.
Make yourself equal before you make yourself different. People generally are fond of their own ideas. That’s because they feel a sense of ownership. Nobody likes to be told that their ideas are bad ones.
Sometimes in our sales role a customer shares an idea with us (maybe a vision influenced by a competitor) and we rush to explain why they’re wrong. We’ve all probably had someone do this to us while we were making a purchase decision.
Instead, build empathy with your buyer. FIRST participate, understand, and compliment the buyer's existing vision BEFORE you attempt to add to it or change it. Psychologically, the buyer will be more willing to engage in that type of conversation once they feel like you understand them.
This is what we mean by “Making yourself equal before you make yourself different.”
Basic Principle #12: Don’t Close Before It’s Closeable
If you are not ready to walk away from an opportunity, then you may not really be ready to engage in the opportunity either.
The principle here is simple, but the ability to adhere to it is not.
If you don’t believe (and can’t demonstrate) that you bring value (through your capabilities) to the customer, you probably don’t have the ability to walk, because you are unaware (and the buyer is) of how much they need you.
This highlights the importance of knowing the value that you and your offerings bring to a given situation.