What Is Solution Selling? Definition, Steps and Benefits

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated August 19, 2022 | Published April 17, 2020

Updated August 19, 2022

Published April 17, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Companies often use a variety of techniques to sell products and services to customers effectively. Solution selling is a technique that involves determining the immediate needs of customers and using those needs to recommend certain products or services to them. If you work in a sales position, learning more about this sales approach can help you connect with your prospects quickly and engage with customers more easily. 

In this article, we describe what solution selling is, define the requirements for this sales technique, explain how to employ it effectively, list some things to consider during the solution selling process and highlight its benefits.

What is solution selling?

Solution selling is the process of identifying a customer's need and providing them with a product or service solution that addresses that need. It requires sales professionals to use empathy and active listening to understand each individual customer's problems and develop a personalized solution that works best for them. The solution selling methodology uses a problem-led sales process that involves identifying a customer's issue prior to introducing a product or service to them, rather than beginning with an explanation of its benefits. 

Companies often use solution selling for highly technical or customizable products that require extensive knowledge and insight from a salesperson. To sell an effective solution, salespeople require knowledge of a prospect's industry and the unique challenges within that industry. Solution selling is particularly effective in business-to-business (B2B) companies, or organizations that make commercial transactions with other businesses regularly. Unlike traditional consumers, B2B companies often experience complex situations that require highly specialized products or services. 

Related: Top 4 Effective Sales Techniques With Tips on How To Use Them

Criteria for solution selling 

Solution selling is a viable practice for businesses in a variety of industries, ranging from manufacturing to health care. To engage in solution selling, it's important that an organization sell products or services that most prospects are unaware of or that might otherwise be difficult for them to find. Companies that use the solution selling technique often provide products or services to clients that meet the following criteria:

  • Complex: Complex solutions typically require knowledgeable salespeople who can help customers navigate the intricacies involved in employing them.

  • Specialized: Solution selling works well for specialized products or services that require technical expertise or understanding from the seller.

  • Collaborative: Some solutions might involve collaboration between several departments or companies. Companies that use a solution selling approach can manage the collaborative process for their customers more effectively.

  • Risky: Some solutions might be risky for the seller or the purchaser and necessitate comprehensive research and risk management.

  • Not obvious: Some solutions take time and dedication to determine. Solution selling is ideal for business challenges without obvious solutions.

  • Customizable: Some solutions require a high degree of customization. A salesperson using a solution sales approach can create an individualized product or service package to meet the unique needs of the buyer.

  • Large-scale: Some companies desire a solution for a challenge that involves multiple departments or platforms or that might even involve their entire organization. 

Related: 15 Essential Sales Tips That Drive Sales and Business Profit

How to use solution selling effectively 

In the right situations, solution selling can allow organizations to present long-term solutions to customers with a unique variety of personalized benefits. Follow these steps to employ a solution selling strategy effectively for your customers:

1. Identify prospective customers

Begin by searching for potential customers in the industry you want to target. Look for companies that have a clear need for the product or service that you're selling or that would benefit from a customized product or plan. Take notes on how your product or service would benefit the prospective customer. Consider that customers in the same industry may also have different needs, and many have budgetary constraints. 

Related: Guide: Ideal Customers and How To Find Them

2. Find pain points

Research the potential company or companies you want to sell to and identify their pain points, or the reoccurring problems that affect business. You might determine these pain points by asking prospects questions about the things that inconvenience them or cause delays. Having insight into their specific problems can help you determine the ways the product or service you're selling might improve their business, which can help you persuade them to make a purchase. 

Related: Customer Pain Points: 4 Examples and How To Eliminate Them

3. Consider the value to customers

Before you meet with a potential customer to educate them about your solution, it's important to develop a thorough understanding of what you're selling and the specific value it has for them. Think about how it might affect their profits and consider the challenges that it eliminates or reduces. Whenever possible, quantify the value the product or service may bring to the company. Use figures like money, time and other resources saved. For example, if you know you're saving customers a certain amount of time with your solution, think about what they might accomplish in the minutes or hours saved. 

Related: How To Communicate Value to Customers (Plus Importance)

4. Present your solution

Once it's time to meet with prospective customers, prepare a comprehensive presentation that includes the full details of your customized solution and educates them about how it can help them with their issue. Be sure to discuss how your expertise can improve their operations, production processes or other business components. Be sure to demonstrate your research to prove any claims you make. At the conclusion of your presentation, give them time to ask you questions and express additional concerns. 

Related: 17 Sales Presentation Ideas for Better Sales Pitches

5. Customize your solution 

After meeting with the prospective customer, assess the needs and desires they expressed during your meeting. Consider taking notes immediately after the meeting so you can remember what they mentioned later. You can adjust your solution based on their comments and customize the product or service to better meet their needs while eliminating their original pain points. During this process, consider both the short- and long-term impact it might have on their operations. 

Related: Product Customization: What It Is and Benefits

6. Close the deal

After revising your solution, schedule another meeting with the prospective customer. As you prepare for this meeting, consider compiling a list of common sales objections to help you in finalizing the sale. Depending on the prospect, it may be necessary to schedule several meetings before you're able to come to an agreement on pricing, deliverables and time frames. Once you have an agreement, you can begin finalizing the deal. Ensure that you're available to answer questions and help the customer in implementing the solution.

Related: How To Close More Deals

Considerations during the solution selling process

Consider the following tips during the solution selling process:

  • Assess your products or services. Make sure the product or service you're selling meets the criteria for effective solution selling. While you may have a complex product or service that requires a high degree of expertise, it may not always be customizable.

  • Review your customers. Engage in a thorough review of your current customer base. If you're already supplying unique, custom solutions to some clients, solution selling may be a useful tactic for other clients as well.

  • Find your niche. Look for markets to sell the product or service in that currently don't have a lot of competition. Finding a niche can make it easier to adapt to external factors that may affect sales, like economic cycles. 

  • Become an advocate. Help customers identify their pain points and create their own custom solutions. Advocate for solutions rather than simply persuading them to make a purchase. 

  • Coach your customer. Assist your customers with the development of their ideal solution. Coach them through the pain point alleviation process and encourage them to help you in designing the best possible solution for their needs. 

Related: 5 Sales Auditing Fundamentals for a Better Sales Process

Benefits of solution selling 

Here are the primary benefits that solution selling offers to organizations:

Allows for more comprehensive selling

Solution selling enables organizations to sell products or services in a way that focuses on providing direct benefits to customers. It does this by requiring sales professionals to engage in thorough research before meeting with prospects to understand their needs. It also requires them to develop customizable solutions and tailor their approach to selling based on the customer, rather than selling an existing product or service.

Attracts repeat customers

Since solution selling is often a long-term process, organizations that are able to sell a product or service to a customer effectively may be able to develop a relationship with them. This allows them to revise the solution based on changing circumstances. They may also be able to sell new products or services as needs change and gain referrals. 

Creates opportunities for innovation 

Solution selling often allows organizations to differentiate themselves from other companies within the same industry. By engaging with customers and working with them to formulate effective solutions, they can help them achieve greater success and provide value to them. They can use what they learned from existing customers to provide even greater value to newer ones.

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