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The End of Solution-Based Selling
By Jeff Thull, CEO, Prime Resource Group

Does this sound familiar? We have the financial solution to meet your needs. We will tailor our products and services so that they will precisely fit your situation. Our price is reasonable and we'll provide excellent customer service.

It may sound like someone transitioning from selling products or services to selling solutions and it's similar to what the vast majority of companies say to their prospects, but if you're still selling that way, you're are likely missing the boat.

The way many financial institutions are selling solutions just doesn't work today. Things have become so complex that most customers have difficulty comprehending what their problems are, or what those problems are actually costing them if they don't get resolved, let alone trying to distinguish between you and your competitors. Too many salespeople are making smoke-and-mirrors claims. By simply re-labeling a collection of their products as ‘solutions' doesn't guarantee the customer will be able to connect the value of those solutions to their business.

The answer is to quit selling your solution as you would sell any other financial product or service and position yourself as a "business advisor," a job that requires diagnostic skills, like those of a skilled doctor. It is your responsibility to help customers uncover and comprehend their most compelling problems as they relate to the solution you're offering. You must help them recognize the risk and negative impact they're experiencing in the absence of your solution, anticipate and respond to problems they will face in the future, and manage the difficulty of change they will no doubt go through as they implement your solution. It is critical that you become an indispensable source of business advantage by helping your customers, in turn, provide greater value to their customers.

So how can you move away from selling solutions and toward becoming a prime solution provider? Here are a few thoughts to get you started:

  • Commit to moving into Era Three. In Era Three, the salesperson is seen as a source of business advantage. He or she essentially says, "I've made some assumptions about the risk you may be facing and I'd like to help you determine to what degree they are true or not. If they are true, I would be in a position to design and recommend a solution that could provide a high level of value to your customers and set you apart from the competition."

    Operating in Era Three requires taking on the mindset of a physician and advising the customer. It is a deeper process than most salespeople are accustomed to. But if you want to gain and keep a solid foothold in a time when your customers have an endless supply of choices, you must do it.
  • Shift your thinking about the role of a salesperson. Today's salespeople must function like general managers. They must have a thorough understanding of the customer's business, but more importantly, the business of their customer's customers. Salespeople must be able to pinpoint where customers may be losing revenue and failing to take advantage of opportunities. In short, they must be highly intelligent, observant, focused, and collaborative.
  • Change your position at the table. In the first two eras of selling, the customer sat on one side of the (metaphorical) table and the salesperson sat on the other. Today, both parties are on the same side of the table, sleeves rolled up and eyes focused on the customer's problems and opportunities. Together, the goal is to properly diagnose the customer's situation, anticipate future problems, and implement an optimal solution that will provide greater value for the customer and their customers.

Only by ingraining yourself deeply and inextricably into every aspect of your customers' day-to-day realties can you escape being replaced on a whim or as a result of a sudden shift in the market. It's tough, yes, but it's a tough marketplace. Shifting to this new paradigm will not only help you become more successful tomorrow, but it will foster in you the agility and plain old street smarts to take your business in completely new and highly profitable directions. You'll see that it's well worth the effort.

About the author

Jeff Thull is a leading-edge sales and marketing strategist and valued executive advisor at major companies including Shell Global Solutions, 3M, Microsoft, Intel, Citicorp, IBM and Georgia-Pacific.

He is also the author of the best-selling books Mastering the Complex Sale: How to Compete and Win When the Stakes are High and The Prime Solution: Close the Value Gap, Increase Margins, and Win the Complex Sale. Jeff’s new book, Exceptional Selling: How the Best Connect and Win in High Stakes Sales, is now available.

For more information, please contact: Prime Resource Group, 3655 Plymouth Blvd., Suite 110, Plymouth, MN 55446, [email protected],, 1.800.876.0378 or 763.473.7529, Fax: 763.473.0792.

 . . .
FPS regularly works with financial services companies to maximize the impact of their client communications, including e-mail and online communications. To find out how we can help you develop effective strategies for communicating with corporate financial executives, contact FPS President Vince DiPaolo at 847-501-4120 or [email protected]. You can also write him at the following address:

Financial Publishing Services Co.
464 Central Avenue
Suite 8
Northfield, IL 60093

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