How Solution Selling Can Take Your Sales to the Next Level

Solution selling tries to pinpoint a target’s pain points and propose a related solution. You’ll use extensive research and ask many questions to find these pains.

Daniel Ternyak
January 29, 2023

Successful salespeople don't just sell a product or service. Rather, they sell a solution to a pain point. Solution selling is a tried-and-true methodology sales teams use in a wide range of industries.

At its core, solution sales are deceptively simple. A sales rep works to identify a customer's pain points so they can accurately determine their needs. By understanding customers' needs, sales reps can then recommend a product or service that fills that gap.

Though this sales process sounds straightforward enough, a surprising number of sales professionals still don’t use solution selling. However, as you and your team learn to implement this sales approach, you can become more successful and achieve great results for your company.

How Is Solution Selling Different From Product Selling?

solution selling: two people doing a puzzle

The solution selling sales methodology is attributed to Michael Bosworth, who developed the concept in the 1970s after working at Xerox. Bosworth started his own company called Solution Selling in 1983 and published a book detailing this process in 1994.

The principles of solution selling actually helped lead to other popular sales methods, such as SPIN selling and customer-centric selling. There's a good reason why sales managers still use it today!

Unlike standard product sales, solution selling doesn't focus on a list of features. It doesn't try to prove a company's product is better than the competition's. Nor does it try to compete primarily on pricing.

Instead, the solution selling methodology tries to pinpoint a customer's real-life problem. The salesperson then identifies how their product or service can provide a meaningful solution.

This approach focuses on a company's value proposition more than any specific feature. By asking open-ended questions, sales reps can understand customer needs. This helps them illustrate their company's value through case studies or other relevant information. For example, a logistics software provider could present a case study showing how their tools enhanced a client’s customer retention by improving order tracking and supply chain management. By forming a meaningful connection with potential customers based on their needs, your company can become a compelling solution.

With this approach, salespeople who find relevant pain points can then show how their products or services make customers' lives better with their product or service.

In B2B sales, this could involve helping a company struggling with manual input errors automate its processes to enhance efficiency and save time.  If you're selling lawn equipment, it could mean helping someone save time and energy with weekly chores by providing a more efficient and less labor-intensive mower.

In the end, you're still technically selling a product or service. But you're putting the buying process in a perspective that highlights real, tangible benefits.

How Any Company Can Use Solution Selling

solution selling: woman writing and holding her phone

The solution selling process works for companies big and small that are looking for a better way to close sales. While your team will undoubtedly need some training as they learn this process, it is remarkably intuitive.

The following steps are key to successfully using solution selling:

Increase Your Team's Knowledge

The first step is to ensure your sales team has extensive knowledge of your products and services. Your reps should know your offerings inside and out — and it doesn't hurt if they know what your competitors offer, either. You can facilitate this by providing an online knowledge base that covers everything they might need to know. The more knowledge your reps have to draw from, the easier it will be to identify how you can help provide solutions for customers.

Research Pain Points in Advance

Thoroughly understanding prospects' pain points before you speak with them can go a long way in knowing which solutions will work best. Depending on your sales process, reps could research a company before reaching out, look at a prospect's previous online interactions, or use a customer persona. This prep work makes it easier to develop a rough idea of how your business could solve common issues your target audience might face. 

Ask the Right Questions

Even with a basic understanding of common pain points, each client is unique. The right selling questions help to pinpoint customers’ specific needs and position solutions. 

Asking the right questions can also help a sales rep determine if their product or service is NOT a good fit. Rather than wasting time prospecting a lead who is unlikely to convert, salespeople can help the lead (and themselves) by being honest. This allows them to move on to leads who are more likely to convert.

Sales reps should start with open-ended questions that help them uncover pain points. This could include questions such as “what takes up the most time for your team?” or simply “what is the biggest challenge you’re facing right now?” 

This can lead to more specific questions later, including questions about how a competitor's product is (or isn't) working for them. The more information reps can learn through their questions, the easier it will be to present the right solution. 

Present the Solution

With a solid base of background knowledge and insights gained from asking insightful questions, sales reps are well-positioned to present a valuable solution. While this may be the "sales" phase of the call, it should not involve a rundown of products and features. Instead, reps should highlight how the solution solves the customer’s primary pain points. This could involve anything from reducing operating costs to saving time through automation.

When Should You Use Solution Selling?

man signing a document in front of two other people

In his book, Bosworth explains that this approach is best used when selling a high-ticket item, as well as during long sales cycles. The more thought-intensive the decision making process, the more effective solution selling will be. 

You might not need this process to sell candy bars, but you'll definitely want to use it to sell SaaS tools.

Solution selling is strongly recommended for so-called difficult selling markets, which require a more individually-tailored approach to sales. These could include companies that sell custom packages to their customers. For example, a cloud services company could provide services like storage, security, web hosting, maintenance, and more. A landscaping company could provide weekly yard care, patio installation, landscaping design, and so on. 

In these scenarios, no two clients get the exact same service package. If your offers go beyond “one size fits all” solutions, solution selling is essential.

For such companies, not every client would need the full list of services. Each customer would generally get their own unique custom package based on their specific needs.

Salespeople who use solution selling are far more likely to close a sale. The customer will more likely trust your sales rep's recommendations when they’re making a genuine effort to understand and address their needs.

Better yet, by catering your business's solutions to the prospect's needs, you will be far more likely to retain them as a customer. Clients will better recognize why they truly need your product. 

Enhance Your Sales Performance With ServiceBell

man using a computer

Solution selling is an intuitive practice that ultimately allows your team to truly understand a buyer's needs so they can make stronger value propositions. 

Many customers start their buyers’ journey online. But using the solution selling approach online can sometimes seem easier said than done. This is where ServiceBell can make a difference.

ServiceBell enables live video chat with your website visitors, creating an immediate connection between sales reps and customers. Direct access to decision makers helps your team learn about their needs so they can provide meaningful solutions. And more often than not, those solutions lead to sales. Start for free to see how our service can help your salespeople succeed.