Why does Consultative or Solution Selling no longer work?

Posted by Harry Mills on 7 February 2017 | Comments

Ultimately, customers buy from the seller who offers the best value. Yet salespeople who are seen by buyers as value-multipliers are as rare as pink diamonds. A recent Forrester executive insight survey asked senior executives to rate salespeople.1

Forrester Executive Insight Survey

So what are the salespeople who fail to generate value doing so wrong? For a start, the vast majority continue to use a consultative selling or solution selling model that no longer works. According to McKinsey, for example, “Solutions Selling has been all the rage over the last five to ten years, yet 75 percent of the companies that attempt to offer solutions fail to return the cost of their investment.”2

The consultative or solution sales process can be reduced to two steps.

Step one: build a great relationship. Step two: uncover your customers’ needs and clinch the sale with a differentiated, tailored solution.

Consultative Selling’s Value Formula

Consultative Sellings Value Formula

Consultative selling starts with the premise “build a relationship and the sale will follow”. The problem with this assumption is today’s time-starved clients will no longer invest time into a relationship in the hope it will later translate into value. Before today’s customers will invest time into a relationship they first want the seller to demonstrate they can add value.3

The second assumption that consultative sellers make is that customers place high value on the differentiated, tailored, product-framed solutions they offer.

The Different and Desirable Test

Different and Desirable Test

For a product or service framed solution to stand apart from competitors it has to be both different and desirable. But when viewed through a buyer’s eye, few suppliers are that different or, for that matter, that desirable. A recent survey of B2B customers by the Marketing Leadership Council found “only 14 percent of the so-called benefits claimed by companies were seen by customers as both unique (different) and beneficial (desirable.)”4

If buyers no longer value so called relationship-driven, customized, largely product framed solutions, what do they value?

Above all, buyers value fresh insights that will help them make and save money or manage risk. Insights are Aha! I see! moments. “A great insight is like a refrigerator. The moment you look into it, a light comes on” says advertising guru Jeremy Bullmore.5

But valuable insights on their own are not enough to clinch a sale. Buyers also look for certainty and reassurance from a supplier that they can actually deliver what they promise. Risk averse buyers want to see a clear, direct line between what is promised and what is going to be delivered, and look for proof it will actually be delivered on time and in budget.

What 21st Century Customers Look For

What 21 Century Customers Look For