The July / August Issue of Harvard Business Review generated a great deal of discussion and debate in the blogosphere on the possible death of solution selling for B2B selling. When it comes to sales, as a CEO I’m sure you have heard your sales executives tell you or perhaps you even believe yourself that “People buy from people they like”. In my years of marketing and working with sales, I think people buying from people they like is an urban legend. Let me explain.
While I know some buyers appreciate some form of personal interaction with their sales person, I think the key factor in successful sales is literally knowing more about theprospective customers business (where your products touch the business) than they do. And I mean everything. Every detail, every nuance, every possible angle where the solution you are selling may have an impact. If your company and your sales representatives can stand up in front of a group of executives/decision makers and discuss intricate areas of their business with absolute confidence and authority, then instead of worrying about if they like you, you create an atmosphere of credibility and trust. Of course, this is not ignoring common courtesy and professionalism in their engagement with the prospects, but I think if you look at your own business decisions as a CEO, you would agree that credibility and trust will build a much richer relationship than “liking” someone.
This gets us back to Solution Selling and supporting marketing efforts. With the explosive growth of the internet and social media, the key to engaging with buyers on their buyers’ journey is valuable content. If as CEO you direct your sales and marketing teams to take the time to research, analyze and understand the business needs of your target audience and their industries and direct your marketing and sales content in support of that buyers learning cycle, your building demand, not just leads. Think about this: isn’t this at the core of solutions marketing and solution selling? That is why solution selling isn’t dead – it’s just moved to the internet and social media leveraged by valuable content and real research and analytics tools. And one last benefit – with this approach I think you will find that because your company has developed a genuine and lasting relationship with customers and prospective customers, you will be far more “liked” in social media than you would have been trying to pursue being liked person to person. And as a CEO that is a ‘like’ you can take to the bank.