Trending This Week: Are You Selling or Solving?

January 18, 2018

Team of Professionals Struggling to Solve Business Problem

In setting up his latest post on the Digital Leadership Associates blog, Alex Low cites a philosophical sales question you might have come across before: “Does Black & Decker sell drills or holes?”

Pardon the pun, but this adage drills down to the core of B2B selling and the prominent disconnect that exists today. No matter what you sell — a product, a service, a media subscription, etc. — you’re selling a solution to a problem.

In almost every case, the act of solving that problem should be the primary focus of any engagement with a buyer. It might still feel foreign to reps who are trained in pitching features and pricing, but the data continues to make this abundantly clear.

Assisting a Self-Guided Solution Journey

“Ask yourself this,” Low implores us. “Are you selling drills? Or the overall solution to drilling a hole? I hope you see yourself as doing the latter, as this is solution-led rather than feature-led. The point is this: How are you helping your customers and targets on their self-guided journey by guiding them with the right validating questions?”

The unavoidable truth is that buyers are taking it upon themselves more and more to solve problems that arise on the job. Research tells us that 89% of B2B buyers conduct their own online research, and on average, they’re more than 70% of the way through the decision-making process before interacting with a sales rep.

This doesn’t put the sales team at risk of irrelevance — so long as we are willing to recognize this evolution and adapt.

It’s all about maximizing what we do with that final 30% of the journey, and making sure that our companies, if not reps themselves, are present and visible along the way there.

This is why sales and marketing alignment is arguably the single greatest priority of 2018 for B2B organizations.

A Cohesive and Consistent Experience

We see it time and time again: people on both sides wincing at the idea of a fully integrated sales and marketing operation. According to data compiled for our Power Couple eBook, there doesn’t seem to be much appetite for job swaps or skill overlap. And most pros shun the idea of a shared budget for sales and marketing.

But this initiative isn’t about overstepping or even necessarily direct collaboration. It’s more about aligning strategically, so that messaging, content, and touchpoints are all framed around a cohesive, underlying blueprint.

That means your company’s marketing content should directly address the questions buyers ask while in the process of solving their problems. Sales can help inform the direction of this content because it has a more open conduit to actual customers than anyone else.

It’s also important to ensure your sales approach is coordinated with marketing content that a decision-maker might encounter. As the Power Couple eBook points out, buyers are much more likely to engage a sales rep from a company if they’ve previously encountered marketing content from that same company on LinkedIn, and they’re more receptive if the messaging is consistent.

In a recent post for Forbes, Ryan Erskine laid out the key questions that an organization must address in formulating its strategy: “Who is your target audience? What problems do you solve for them? What questions might they be trying to answer when they first experience that problem? How do those questions change and evolve as they learn more about the industry?”

For best results, sales and marketing should work together to determine the answers and develop a plan that is proactive, predictive, and prescriptive. But that certainly doesn’t prevent the two sides from maintaining boundaries and autonomy.

Problem Solved

“As a sales person, you need to work with marketing to help them understand that you are not selling drills, but a solution that makes a hole,” concludes Low in his aforementioned blog post. “And based on your experience of selling your solution successfully, many times over, supported by continual client feedback, this is how we will guide customers to our solution by reminding them that this is the right one for them.”

By turning your company into a comprehensive problem-solving engine for your customers, you can in turn solve the biggest problem being faced by many sales and marketing teams struggling to acclimate in this new B2B landscape.

Whatever problems you face as a sales pro, we’re here to help solve them. Subscribe to the LinkedIn Sales blog and we’ll do our best to provide clarity in a complex world of B2B selling.