You have heard before that people run organizations—not products, not merchandise, not ideas, not even money. It’s people who make the valuable connections between the products, the ideas, and the money. Without the people, these things are meaningless and subject to change beyond control.
In the broad sense, when we talk about focusing on products, we are talking about an organizational strategy that tends to invest more time and effort into their marketing efforts (making the product appear more attractive to customers). On the other side of the coin, when we talk about strategy that focuses on solutions, we’re talking about investing in salespeople (those that create solutions by connecting product benefits with customer needs).
There are a few things to point out here.
Your goal is, of course, for customers to want your products and services – and to see their true value as it relates to meeting their needs. In addition, this is where marketing comes in. Organizations need to continue to make their products and services attractive to the customer so they’ll want to continue to seek and buy from your company rather than a competitor. The challenge with marketing is that there are a lot of variables, and any one of those variables is open to attack by competition.
And what does your company do to get a leg up on the competition?
That is right—typically they spend money improving or changing the product, drop the price, or have the advertising team come up with a brilliant marketing strategy or canned sales presentation to sell customers on your ideas. Likewise, part of your business energy is spent defending these very same things from being outdone by your competition.
Not so defenseless though, are your salespeople. They are the glue that holds all of these variables together.
Research into what factors human consider most important when choosing friends and partners consistently shows that we value people who show intelligence, kindness, integrity, diligence, and attentiveness.
Firstly then, you want your customers to see your salespeople as people they can trust, not as “typical sales reps.” Secondly, you want your customers to see your salespeople as having these very qualities that people seem to prefer.
This means that salespeople need to sell the connections that create the solutions, not simply the product. In addition, salespeople should exhibit sales behaviors that will display their intelligence, integrity, and attentiveness.
A simple example: a salesperson who willingly admits that he or she doesn’t have the answer to a client’s tough question but can find out, is much more likely to be perceived as having intelligence and integrity than a salesperson who tries to skirt around with an answer that may not be what the client is looking for. The latter salesperson risks coming across as distrustful and incompetent.
Products will evlolve, money will expand and contract, ideas will change, but customers will continue to buy into the salesperson that remains consistent throughout. Customers will be loyal to a salesperson who becomes a valuable consultant or even “partner” (Read: trusted advisor) to the business. And that’s what you want: customers loyal to a person—your salesperson—rather than to a product, a price, or an idea that will undoubtedly change with the marketplace demand and competition.
Bottom line: When sales begin to slump, many companies are quick to pour money into product improvement. While marketing is a vital component of any business, it’s not always the cure-all. We feel that a good selling strategy needs to have a shared focus, devoting some resources to products but perhaps even more to solutions improvement. Therefore, companies would be well advised to invest in their people and to finding new ways to position their solutions.