Buying behaviour has fundamentally changed over the past ten years. But there are still lots of companies approaching buyers of today with outdated best practices and mindsets, or continuing to advocate the old way of selling.

Until recently, it was still possible to achieve reasonable B2B sales results by simply highlighting solution benefits. Clients had no alternative but to take the sales person’s advice when making their buying decisions. People who still have this mindset should beware: buyers have taken over the sales process, and now they have the power. And they want to avoid risk as much as possible.

How can we adapt to today’s buyer?

A lot has already been said about the switch from product sales to solution sales, or from transactional into consultative selling. But we still see that neither has delivered on its full potential, and results remain far below expectations. This is why:

  • Both aim to implement a repeatable, linear and mechanical step-by-step process (not a ‘real’ sales environment!)
  • The sales support environment is not upgraded simultaneously; bonuses, product training and literature, events, CRM and even reporting remain largely unchanged
  • Management tries to resolve this with sales skills training and there is no change programme

You can fix this by focusing on the buyer, and learning about your clients and their markets.It’s also important to factor in risk mitigation. The ‘customer trust equation’ by David Maister, one of the world’s leading authorities on the management of professional service companies, is an excellent formula for clarifying the idea of risk mitigation:

T = (C+R+I) / S

T: trustworthiness (or perceived risk of working with you)

C: credibility = words (I can trust what he says)

R: reliability = actions (I can trust him to …)

I: intimacy = emotions (I feel comfortable discussing the subject)

S: self-orientation (I can trust that he cares)

The denominator of this fraction is (of course) what has the biggest impact here. You have to convince your clients that you really understand their requirements and objectives. The conversion rate will be lower if the client thinks the seller is focussing on themselves, regardless of the quality of your products or your sales person’s knowledge. In this case the seller is not being driven by the client but by a bonus that depends on the deal being struck, the internal pressure of a forecast, the special offer they want to sell, management’s desire to sell more of these solutions, or the belief that they’re an expert and want to prove it to you.

So consider risk management and look at all the conditions that can have an impact on sales when deciding how to improve your sales performance.

Solution Selling is very common jargon used in sales organisations. Companies that have introduced this method have gained a competitive advantage as a result of the way in which sales people help customers with their purchases.

This is how you sell solutions:
– Discuss client needs using open questions, creating a vision and a solution together with the client. This gives the seller the greatest possible impact on what the client will ultimately buy.
– The packaging of products and services in such a way that a total solution is created to satisfy client needs. The classic example is Apple with iPod and iTunes in contrast to a normal MP3 player.

Trend reversal: more power for the client

The internet and social media have brought about an important shift in the way people are informed and how they make their purchase decisions. But in the last couple of years we have seen a trend reversal which has undermined the impact of Solution Selling. Now the client has the power. It’s no longer the sales process that counts; the purchasing process (buyer journey) now has the upper hand. Welcome to the Age of the Customer. Client interaction and sales discussions have to be different now to achieve good results.

Not just information, but conversation

You can still achieve a sustainable and competitive advantage in this new era – the Age of the Customer. But now your client knowledge forms the basis for the development of new products and services to satisfy the increased needs of better informed clients. Your marketing and sales don’t provide information so much anymore; instead they provide conversation to improve your client relationships with more engagement. A better experience and the proven impact of your solution will result in a higher margin and lower sales cost.


Difference between Solution Selling and Buyer-Aligned Selling


What is the starting point?
As a consultant, make it possible to discuss requirements and guide the client in their thought process until the specific solution is bought.Ability to question client beliefs and provide support by completing the picture.
Which process is required?
Your entire sales organisation using a proven sales process. All your activities and measurement systems must chart and improve its effectiveness and application.A dynamic buying process based on customer experience. Enable employees to adapt to the buyer’s phase of purchasing at any moment. Internal processes and measurement systems are designed to match the buying phase.
What’s important?
Ask the right questions to discuss the challenges that can be resolved by the solution you are offering. The strengths must be explicit and demonstrable from the structure of the approach.Empathy with the client situation and use of language specific for the role and sector. This demonstrates an attitude which shows that helping the client is your highest priority.
What knowledge is crucial?
Knowing the relationship between the client’s challenge and the strengths of your products and services.Broad understanding of the client situation: environment, challenges and requirements.
What skills are crucial?
Prospecting, questioning techniques, listening skills, diagnosis and persuasiveness.Social selling, client focus, relationship-building, ability for concrete visualisation of your offer’s value and impact.
What is the relationship between sales and marketing?
Marketing supports sales, and the two are aligned. Marketing ensures that both the client and the seller are informed. Marketing generates leads for sales.Both are integrated and fully designed to match the client’s buying process. As well as generating leads for sales, marketing is also responsible for the conversation with the client and increasing engagement with the client target audience.