Solution selling is a win-win for you and your customers if relevant recommendations are made that address the customer’s needs or problems. Learn how solution selling can help you sell more and at the same time, improve customer satisfaction.
What is solution selling?
It’s offering a customer or client everything they need to achieve their end goal.
To offer someone a solution, you first need to:
- understand their problems or needs
- recommend appropriate, relevant solutions to their problem
Notice the order! Their problem goes before your solution.
By listening first, asking clarifying questions and then offering a relevant solution to the prospective customer’s problem or need, you will increase sales as well as customer satisfaction.
Know this: Done poorly, this will backfire.
Some examples of what NOT to do when solution selling:
- McDonald’s restaurants were running a promotion and wanted all their people to ask customers, “Do you want fries with that?” They offered this to everyone, including someone doing mystery shopping for McDonald’s store operators who asked for an ice cream cone only. Asking “do you want fries with that?” wasn’t a relevant recommendation. Lesson: good judgment is required in service businesses.
- Ineffective sales people, who are often on commission, “push products” without first taking the time to listen and learn.
- High pressure marketing does the same thing: turn off a lot of customers.
Examples of Solution Selling
Solution selling is what good doctors do. They listen to a patient’s symptoms (problems), ask discerning questions to identify unrecognized symptoms and then recommend what will help the patient feel better.
Would you trust a doctor who entered the exam room and gave you a bottle of pills without first listening to your symptoms? No.
Would a doctor say “I’ve provided a solution”? No. The patient would determine if they felt the doctor helped them.
Solution selling is what consultants do. They listen, ask good questions and then make a recommendation. Or, they go back to the office and get together with other people to price out a proposal for that specific customer.
The concept of solution selling can be applied to companies selling through mass marketing as well. Those businesses need to anticipate what people’s needs/problems will be, and proactively present relevant solutions.
The department store Target does a great job of this. For kids’ back-to-school season, Target dedicates an entire section of the store with everything students need. They include things that are on the school checklist that students are told to buy and they also include some other related items for back-to-school that are nice to have like a new lunch box, a cool three-color pen, backpacks and water bottles. Parents and students come into the store for pencils and paper and leave with all kinds of things they didn’t intend to buy because Target did an excellent job of solution selling to them for back-to-school.
Here’s an example: AAA bundles items together in a “solution” to solve a customer’s problem of being stranded without safety gear, and sells it as the AAA Traveler Road Kit.
- Their value-add is selecting the items, purchasing them and packaging them in a case.
- They’ve chosen to offer this at a discounted price. That’s not always necessary.
- What they’ve put together for their customers anticipates a need and is relevant for AAA to offer.
- They could have also included services in this.
- What relevant products or services can you bundle together to help a customer? They don’t all have to be products/services you offer. In this case AAA is providing value and saving people time by doing the research to choose what to put in this kit.
A mannequin in a department store is an example of solution selling. It includes things that a store sells that go well together like clothes, shoes, jewelry and accessories. It’s one-stop shopping with everything needed to look great. It gives shoppers confidence, ideas and inspires them to buy more.
Restaurants do “solution selling” when the waiter recommends things to go along with what a customer is ordering (wine, an appetizer, salad or dessert).
A Certified Financial Planner does solution selling when they recommend relevant services to help a client save money on insurance or better manage their money.
A landscaping business does solution selling when they offer design and build services along with maintenance contracts. Someone wants a great yard…they listen to the client’s dreams…they show them options and ideas…then they recommend things beyond landscaping. That could be fencing, a fountain, a pool or spa, tree care, automatic irrigation.
Smart retailers do solution selling when they group products together. In this example, the retailer has chosen to offer a discount for buying the “solution”. This may not necessary. You may want to test what you sell more of (at higher profit margins) with offering a discount and at full price.
From our experience
Solution selling is a win-win for a business and customers if you are making relevant recommendations. It is important that your recommendations are well thought through and will be viewed by the customer as addressing their needs.
People typically shop for the best price for the primary thing they need and then once they find a good price for that, they aren’t as price sensitive about all the fun accessories to buy.