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J.D. Meier

Good stuff.

I think the big shift is to authority, and the network determines the authority ... and this works in conjunction with word-of-mouth marketing.

I think there's also a key shift to micro-niches and super relevancy and specialization. Small is the new big because it's the most relevant and specialized (it's higher up the stack in maturity.)

One way to reduce missing the demand side with your supply side, is to adopt the prosumer model and build solutions with your customers instead of for your customers (as you pointed out.)

Authentic marketing will win over gimmicks, and the network will sniff out the truth over time.

Gerhard Gschwandtner

Hi Tim,
I fully understand your feelings since you have a) A descriptive trademark protecting your rights to the term Solution Selling b) Three books that have Solution Selling in the title and c) A training course that has Solution Selling in the title.
I know that you are without a doubt doing a great job in training salespeople and preparing them with the right tools to be successful. I have no doubt that you have successfully trained thousands of salespeople in your concepts. From a 35,000 foot view, I don't see that solution selling is making a dramatic impact on the mediocre state of selling that reigns today.
Here is what I see:
1. Selling is shifting from the seller to the buyer. The Internet is giving customers a lot more power.
2. What drives sales is no longer a pitch, or a formula, or a trademarked training program but an authentic and intellegent conversation. Conversations drive commerce.
3. The definition of what "selling" is, has changed. While salespeople like to identify with a sales approach, customers don't care. What the definition of the word "selling" means to salespeople is not relevant. What's relevant is what the customer thinks. If customers want a transaction, the salesperson should facilitate the desired transaction. If the customer wants a relationship, salespeople should be able to create the right relationship. If the customer wants a solution, help them with their needs for a solution.
4. When it comes to creating value for a customer, the term solution is inadequate. A solution contains the possibility of creating a positive outcome. A solution may also fail miserably. In other words, a solution contains an element of chance. In this economy, people want to lower their risk, and solution selling contains an element of gambling mixed with a twinge of arrogance.
5. When it comes to the marketing buzz around the word solutions, it is clearly a misused word. Take a look around the tech industry. How many companies have invested in a CRM "solution" and ended up with little results to show for. How is 60% user adoption creating value for a company? How would you like to get 60 cents back on every dollar you spend? The tech industry is a leader for new trends and tech buyers cringe when they hear the word "solution." They want measurable value, they want real results.
6. I believe that it is high time for SPI to adapt to the rapidly changing world of selling. If solution selling was as successful as you claim it is, how come that SPI is not the fastest growing company in the industry?

Tim Sullivan

Gerhard - your post disappoints me greatly. It shows a profound misunderstanding about what “solution selling” really is – I would think that you would know better.

It's odd that you define all the elements of Solution Selling perfectly – and then say that “solution selling is fading”. Are you saying that customers don’t want solutions to their problems? Ah, wait, you say they do. Are you saying that salespeople shouldn’t try to diagnose customer problems and then figure out how they can best provide value? Ah, wait, you say they should do that, too. Isn't this the very definition of "solution selling"?

Your further citation of the mis-characterization of “solution selling” from the March HBR article is disheartening, especially the contention that Solution selling does not challenge a customer's point of view. This is untrue. There are many other serious errors in this article. Please see this post on our blog that highlight these: http://bit.ly/19tHyX

I hope that what you meant to say is that most sellers don’t *really* sell solutions – that they are just pitching product and affixing the “solution” moniker to it. In that regard, we agree completely. But to say that customers don’t want to be sold solutions is just plain silly.

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