Seems like a straight forward question, especially if you are in B2B sales; as easy a lay-up as possible for today’s sellers, right? But you would be surprised how professional sales people struggle to give a meaningful or useful answer to this question, especially if you measure useful in how well it causes a potential buyer to engage and/or act. The main reason is that most answers are still anchored in the “product”, and while they may dress it up to sound like “solutions” or other euphemisms, it is usually still beige, and really non-engaging.
Typically I ask this from all groups I work with and over 80% of the time what I hear back are very much the deliverables that their company usually delivers. I hear hardware, software, applications, blah blah services, etc. You usually have a few who will say “solutions”, but when pressed for what solutions, many revert back to the comfort of their product or deliverable. This just validates that solutions is more a buzz word that the willingness to explore the real problems the buyers is experiencing, or more importantly, what is the perceived problem preventing the buyer from achieving. While a lot of progress has been made by some, it is still very much that sales people are a solution (defined by marketing or their value proposition) running around the country side looking for a “problem” that fits their solution, rather than being able to help the buyer achieve their objective(s).
The answer to “What do you sell” needs to directly relate to not what the buyer is buying, but what they are trying to achieve with what they buy.
Here is a simple example, assuming a hypothetical buyer need to achieve perfect and identical quarter inch holes, hundreds in multiple places and over a period of years. When they go to the “store” they are still fixated on the ¼ inch hole, but most sales people want to talk about the drill. All it’s features, the innovativeness of the engineers who worked on the drill, the ease of use, and the multitude of available attachments, (of which only one could potentially deliver a ¼ inch hole), and more. The assumption is that the buyer is looking for a drill, the best drill, their drill. But the buyer is looking for ¼ inch hole, and usually could care less if it is done with a drill, or ice pick, they need a consistent identical whole every time. But sellers keep talking about what you can do with “it”, not what “it” will do for the buyer.
The answer to the question of what you sell needs to start with what and why the buyer is buying. Why buyers buy is the key, they are rarely looking for a solutions, they are always looking to achieve an objective, big or small. Those objectives are in response to perceived risk, financial gain, productivity, time gains, and role defined interests. But this is just the start, a step many reps have taken, but it is just that a step.
I hear too many reps staying on the surface, using the above categories as complete statements. Just listen, and you will hear many reps say things like “we deliver efficiencies to workflow, while improving productivity”. “Our document management solutions reduce costs while enhancing productivity”. Good starts, but one needs to go deeper to get traction, especially if you are going to try to sell to people who are not looking or have identified a “need” or felt a “pain”. Without need or pain, the only thing all buyers have in common are objectives, which are not product or solutions based.
Think about the consistently perfect ¼ inch hole, not the perfect drill.