Solution selling

Assembling a sales force capable of selling solutions is arguably the most difficult challenge for any aspiring ‘solutions provider' that is committed to delivering a balanced mix of hardware, software and services.

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By  Andrew Seymour Published  February 7, 2008

An assertive personality is also a useful characteristic, simply because of the need to approach customers, understand their IT infrastructure and provide consultancy. The persuasive nature of product-focused sales staff can therefore prove valuable if channelled properly.

"Turning a product-focused sales person into a solutions-focused sales person is very difficult, but it is not impossible," said Abi Esber at MDS. "People who will be successful are those with a business knowledge background and technical knowledge background."

That emphasis on business or industry knowledge continues to be regarded by many as the most important factor.

Bruno Haubertin, partner and alliances sales organisation manager at Sun Microsystems MENA, commented: "If you want a solution sale in the telecommunications sector, you need to make sure that your sales person understands who the top three ISVs are in the given solutions range or who the top ERP sellers are - they need to understand the ecosystems. Selling solutions is only possible in a high-touch type of model where the reseller and vendor are very close and work together almost in synergy," he added.

For many resellers, the route to a solutions provider model is a gold-paved one that potentially dilutes dependence on product margins and increases the possibility of securing long-term, recurring contracts.

A reseller capable of morphing into a solutions model is also ideally-positioned to command more support from the growing number of Middle East vendors seeking partners focused on value rather than volume.

6 steps to solution selling

1. Galvanising the troops

Any reseller underestimating the contrasting qualities between product-selling and solution-selling can wave goodbye to their prospects of success before they've even started. For the vast majority of resellers taking their first steps towards building a solutions-focused sales force, the natural strategy will be to pluck product-based sales staff from their existing posts and transition them into new roles.

That approach is perfectly logical, but only if it is managed carefully! For instance, product-focused sales staff are accustomed to being measured on volume targets, so transferring to an environment where that emphasis is significantly reduced could cause contention. Resellers need to set out a common agenda of where the company is heading so that employees can follow clear objectives.

Although small resellers might not have the luxury of being able to make wholesale changes, larger contemporaries must show a degree of ruthlessness if necessary. If a sales person is resistant to change and won't buy into the solutions concept then they must either be placed elsewhere in the organisation or released altogether.

Should they prove perfectly capable of making the transformation to solution-selling then it is vital that these employees are managed closely and receive constant training. Failure to provide those basic fundamentals will simply give them reason to revert back to their former product-selling sales habits when the situation occurs.

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