This is a guest post by HubSpot corporate sales executive, Juan Molina. Juan has been in B2B technology sales for the past 7 years and has held positions in sales including entry level business development rep, outside territory rep, key account management, and sales management. You can follow Juan @salestipsb2b on twitter, or check out his blog on B2B Sales Tips.
In my experience, most sales reps in a B2B commercial engagement, when asked what solution they are selling to a prospect tend to answer strictly in product terms. They answer in the specific product version, quantity, and overall functional details of what will be provided. In my opinion, this is a mistake that leads to two very common pitfalls:
- Reps tend to sell on functionality v.s. business benefits
- Reps get a false sense of security regarding whether or not they actually have a true quality opportunity
I’d challenge any rep to take a look at their perceived opportunity pipeline and describe to their manager or a colleague what the solution is in each one of their deals without being able to use any internal product names or language. Further, I’d challenge them to take out of pipeline any opportunities for which they can’t accomplish this. If you are only defining the solution being sold in product terms you will see a significant revenue amount drop out of pipeline, however you may begin getting a realistic sense of what is truly in pipeline, and more importantly what questions need to be addressed the next time you speak with the prospects you dropped out.
To be clear, I’m not saying that deals for which you only describe the solution in product terms won’t close, but I am saying that for those where you don’t know what the solution is from your prospect’s perspective you are exposing yourself to significant risks including:
- Wasting time on poor quality opportunities
- Not truly understanding the need
- Competitive review based solely on functionality and price (this makes negotiating effectively nearly impossible!)
The text book definition of the term solution is: something that is used or done to deal with, and end a problem.
In my mind, the commercial definition of the term should be: the ability to articulate to a prospect a specific business process change or set of changes to resolve specific problems they’ve identified within their business, and how then your business is able to facilitate those changes through technology or services.
As you can see by the above, nowhere in either the text book definition, or in my definition of the term does there appear anything that should be specific to internal product terms or language. This is a critical point of distinction, because when you liberate yourself from thinking of the solution in strictly product terms you are able to both see the problem you are attacking through the prospects eyes (will also help you understand the need), and also able to truly understand how to resolve that problem therefore proposing the appropriate technology and services.
As an example, if I am dealing with a marketing executive who articulates their problem as having poor lead quality being sent to their sales teams, and having serious doubt about increasing his lead conversion by 50% my solution to him would be as follows: Disclaimer – I work for HubSpot
Business Process Change(s):
- A way to improve lead intelligence so that marketing can improve lead scoring
- A way for sales reps to understand areas of interest for leads as well as which leads have taken actions that make them more likely (i.e., download generic information v.s. downloading specific product information v.s. requesting a demo of a specific product)
- A way for marketing to intelligently engage and track people who aren’t ready to purchase initially but through nurturing and targeting can be moved to the point where they are turned into a quality lead for sales to convert where with the previous process they would not have
How I would facilitate that change:
- Provide marketing department with technology that can track prospects from their first point of interaction regardless of channel (i.e., email, social, website, etc), and improve ability for marketing to score lead based on attributes and activity (i.e., title, company, actions taken)
- Link directly with CRM used by sales reps to provide all of the same information marketing has available to them in real time as the rep begins to work the lead to help them appropriately engage the prospect
- Provide marketing ability to understand when prospects interact with the business in the future, the flexibility to show them new content to get prospects more engaged, and with a workflow that allows the prospect to “raise their hand” once they are ready to buy and truly be engaged by sales.
The solution can be articulated without using any specific product names or internal HubSpot language and this can be done for any industry and technology. Frankly, if you can master this you will be able to engage your prospects on a level most sales people aren’t able to. You will be able to truly understand their problem, and articulate your solution to them in a way that makes sense to the most important person in any sale: THE PROSPECT!
Master the above and it will propel your business conversations to the next level!