Beyond Solution-Based Selling: A New Approach to Pass the Competition

Learn how to gain a competitive advantage by adopting a new sales approach that relies on personalized, educational engagement.

August 1, 2016

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Salespeople have relied on solution-based sales pitches for decades—and that strategy was exceptionally effective for a while. The concept behind selling solutions is simple: the sales rep uncovers the client’s pressing needs, then sells them products and services with the promise of fulfilling that need.

Once upon a time, that approach was novel, but in today’s changing business landscape, solution-based selling only keeps your sales team mired in the status quo—and rapidly falling behind the earlier adopters. In fact, today’s most successful reps have increasingly shifted away from solution selling and towards a radically different approach based on the “Challenger” sales model.

Moving Beyond Solutions

The traditional model of selling suggests that your pitch should focus on understanding and solving the needs of your prospects. The logic behind selling “solutions” is based on the long-held belief that salespeople can help their customers uncover new solutions to their existing problems. But that may no longer be the case: in a 2014 LinkedIn Insights Survey, we found that buyers complete 70% of their purchase before contacting a salesperson.

That’s where social selling comes in. Armed with insights gathered from LinkedIn and other social media, you can approach your prospects from an entirely different angle. As the Challenger model espouses, top-performing salespeople now aim to teach their customers a carefully tailored message about the way their business is changing. Once they’ve changed a decision maker’s mindset, they can then coach the customer on how to buy.

Mastering the Message

Though there are several key differences between solution selling and the Challenger model, they boil down to a simple yet profound change in the way sales reps approach conversations with their prospects. For Challenger salespeople, rather than selling a solution, their goal is to coach their prospects to shift the way they think about their own businesses. The idea is that when you can teach your prospect something new about their business, you’ll reveal needs and concerns that they didn’t realize they had.

The Challenger model advocates three equally important steps to winning a deal: teaching, tailoring, and taking control. It all begins with what Challenger sales reps refer to as the “teaching message”: a tailored pitch that causes your customer to see their business, and their needs, in a new light. Once you’ve tailored a teaching message to your customer, you’ve effectively taken control of the conversation, significantly increasing your chances of winning the deal.

Personalizing Your Message with Social Selling

Ultimately, Challenger sales are driven by insights. For example, you can’t effectively tailor a teaching message to your prospects without a deep understanding of their business, including the ways in which it’s currently in flux. That’s why social selling is so key to winning deals in the modern business climate.

In order to effectively challenge your customers’ way of doing business, you need to know what drives their thinking—and you can’t do that if you haven’t fully embraced a social selling methodology. You can use LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index (SSI) score to measure your efforts against four crucial elements, including finding the right people and engaging with insights.

As your score goes up, you’ll glean more and more insights that you can use to stay one step ahead of your prospects. Remember that social selling is still in its early stages—and those who adopt its strategies now will reap the greatest rewards.

For more useful tips on social selling adoption, download our Crossing the Chasm eBook.