McKinsey Study: Solution Selling… is the pain worth the gain?

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Solutions selling has been all the rage over the last 5 to 10 years, yet 75 percent of the companies that attempt to offer solutions fail to return the cost of their investment.” (Source: ‘Solution Selling: Is the pain worth the gain’ McKinsey Study).

Even the author and founder of Solution Selling & CustomerCentric Selling, Mike Bosworth, agrees.

“The number one complaint I heard from sales managers was that the bottom 80 percent of their salespeople quit trying to use the methodology within 10 days of the workshop.” (‘Mike’s Ah-Ha moment’ Sept. 2011).

Despite the risks, many companies aspire to Solution Sell because there are big payoffs to getting it right.

“Why, then, do companies embrace the idea? Because those who do win enjoy significant margin and revenue improvements, as well as other benefits.” (Source: ‘Solution Selling: Is the pain worth the gain’ McKinsey Study).

But not everyone needs to Solution Sell.

Why Change?

If your customers can intuit the value of your offering based off of a product presentation, then you don’t need to change.

If, however, you are like most Enterprise Sales companies then your biggest competitor is ‘No Decision Inc.’ According to Sales Benchmark Index, 58% of sales opportunities end up with the Buyer deciding to do nothing.  That’s a huge problem and explains why Solution Selling had the right approach to “sell the problem before the solution.” Without ‘Ditching the Pitch’ and ‘Selling Solutions’, your offering will remain valueless because Buyers won’t recognize that they have a problem worth fixing.

Difficult to Implement

The Solution Selling Questioning Model used to “sell the problem before the solution” was great in theory, yet in practice it had three fundamental flaws.

  1. Too complicated: In the heat of a sales call, Salespeople couldn’t be expected to remember 50-200 questions- especially when the Customer’s response to the Salesperson’s questions could jump from question 23 to 58 and then back to 17. The poor Salespeople would get lost in a sea of question.
  2. Conversation Killer: The sequential nature of the Questioning Model was too inflexible to move with the fluidity of a business conversation.
  3. Alienate the Buyer: Buyers could often feel painted into a corner by manipulative questions.

How do you win?

StorySelling will help you overcome these flaws for the following two reasons:

  1. Buyer Friendly: Because stories present a scenario that allows your Buyers to draw their own conclusions, they can now relax and listen to your story as they no longer feel painted into a corner.
  2. Simple: Stories are easier to remember, faster to execute and more natural to deliver.

But you may wonder: “Don’t case studies do this?” No, for two reasons:

  1. Case Studies are primarily used to prove that your solution works whereas StorySelling is all about “Selling the problem”.
  2. Case Studies are conversation killers because they flood the Buyer with too much information. StorySelling, on the other hand, is all about providing short bursts of insight that are designed to prompt better conversations.

This doesn’t mean that every point is made with a story. The key is to have a dialogue. However, because stories are easy to remember, the information is there when you need it. As a result, you can now relax and just listen to the Buyer and trust that when they finish you will know what to say, instead of listening in order to … make your point, win the argument, or ask your next question.

To more effectively engage in business conversations that link your capabilities to the customer pain points, use StorySelling so that you enjoy significant margin and revenue improvements.

Free Resources:

  1. “Solution Selling: Is the pain worth the gain.” McKinsey Study.
  2. “How to write mini-User Stories.” (click).
  3. Stories that Sell Workshop (click).



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