Al Morgan, Director of Solution Marketing and Dale Rensing, Porter Consulting Senior Market Analyst
Today’s buyers are highly informed, being well-served by an internet that lets them broadly research individual products. But the data deluge they encounter can also serve to confuse matters. If they have a need for speed and simplicity, they will often gravitate to predefined or pre-configured product combinations. Their needs, however, are not always simple and often involve a combination of products. In an effort to capture these customers, solution selling is more vital than ever before.
Rather than promoting the merits of products individually, solution selling focuses on the customer’s business pain points and addresses those points with an integrated set of products, services and expertise. It is often delivered through a partnered sales approach, submitting a proposal to the customer specifically tailored to their needs. Offering speed and simplicity, solutions can often yield higher margins to the seller.
Technology solution selling is complex. Solutions often include a combination of servers, software, cloud services, virtualization and mobile elements. Other digitized products (think in terms of the Internet of Things) might also be involved. Vendors may sell a solution as a bundled kit, either a preconfigured and tested combination, or perhaps a single box appliance, but the implementation tends to be far from simple. A mix of legacy and modern equipment further complicates deployment. Due to all this complexity, the sales process can take several months. To further complicate matters, technology solution selling involves interacting with and winning over a cross-functional team of decision makers.
That last point is key to marketing solutions. As marketers, we need to engage all stakeholders on the customer decision team and persuade them that the solution being offered best suits their needs. AND we need to do it before they’ve made up their mind to go with somebody else. To do this, we must develop content and engagement tactics that target our messages appropriately to the right audience at the right point in their decision making cycle.
To do solution selling effectively, start with a core set of messages designed to influence each role on the decision team and bring everyone together to your preferred conclusion. In our experience, we have found that this is best done as a three step process:
- Establish stakeholder persona templates
- Map content delivery according to the buyer’s journey
- Focus on role-specific message marketing that targets value propositions to each stakeholder
The first step follows the cardinal rule of knowing your customer. As earlier implied, solution selling requires that your company is seen as a trusted advisor. It means you need to move from selling “the what” to providing a clear path to the “so what”. If you don’t know your customer’s pain points, it’s nearly impossible to do that.
The second step uses the understanding you have of your customers to time and place your content appropriately. Some stakeholders need to be engaged very early in the buyer’s journey. Others don’t get involved until much later in the game. Each receives their information in a variety of different ways. Knowing where to place your messages and when is key to bringing everyone to a consensus at the end. It’s not about shouting your message to the world these days. It’s about fundamentally understanding the needs of your customers and speaking directly to them.
Finally, give each stakeholder the right content. Strong sales are driven by emphasizing the benefits that your product or service brings to each stakeholder. Focus on what your offering will help them achieve. If you know the challenges that face each role, you can pair your solution perfectly with the problem that it solves. Several modern efficient and inexpensive marketing tactics can be used to take the content you’ve developed and make sure it’s targeted appropriately.
At Porter, we understand this process in depth. We start by interviewing a broad swath of marketing, sales, presales, and even channel partners that touch deals and customer. We focus on what matters to each role of the decision team and why. Once we build the model, we can recommend content, tools, and strategies to embed our sponsor’s message as we travel on the buyer’s journey together.
Stick with us as we explore each of these steps in more depth in subsequent blogs.
Al brings 30 years of IT solutions marketing to bear on current marketing and sales challenges. Technologies change constantly, but it still takes content, skills and confidence to win the big decisions. You can find more blogs and content from Al at www.porterconsulting.net. Porter Consulting is a marketing services consulting company who can you help you grow revenue.
Dale Rensing has been helping customers envision the benefits of technology, from local area networks to cloud technologies and IoT for over 25 years. You can find more blogs and content from Dale at www.porterconsulting.net. Porter Consulting is a marketing services consulting company who can you help you grow revenue.