04 Mar 4 guided selling concepts to enhance your solutions-based selling
by Michael Martin
Did you know there are 40 different types of hammers on the market? Each hammer serves a specific purpose for the user, from Tack and Ball Peen to Sledge or Mallet. And while an experienced tradesperson (or savvy DIY expert) already knows what hammer they need to purchase to finish their project, most customers need help from a store representative to make the best buying decision.
Studies show that 79 percent of business buyers say it’s “absolutely critical” or “very important” to interact with a salesperson who is a trusted advisor—not just a sales rep—who adds value to their business. “Customers now seek personalized interactions with brands and expect their sales reps to learn, understand, and anticipate their needs — like personal consultants,” says Tiffani Bova of Salesforce.
That’s the idea behind guided selling; take the in-store experience online by focusing on what products the customer needs to be successful by asking a series of questions about what they need rather than leaving them to browse through the often overwhelming product list themselves.
This targeted sales approach offers a virtual host of advantages and sales opportunities for your business. Let’s discuss four guided selling concepts that will help your company improve customer relationships and get on track for quicker growth.
Reinforce customer relationships through emotional connections
You’ve invested in a sales experience to build meaningful, loyal, and profitable customer relationships to help your business grow, not be an online product stock list or hire human product catalogs.
Being familiar with the product line is good. But we’ve worked with many companies who try to grow their business using an outdated CPQ system that only allows users to select SKUs and manually build a configuration. And that’s troubling. Not only does the salesperson have to choose the right product for the customer, but they must configure it correctly with no mistakes. This requires lots of training, and it assumes the customer has extensive product knowledge as well.
With the guided selling approach, the focus of your sales strategies moves from product knowledge to solutions.
Present a solutions-based sales approach to customers
At Simplus, rather than asking about the specific features needed, which requires knowledge of the options, pros and cons, etc., we ask our customers about the desired results or uses. For example, let’s say we were selling cars. We’d ask if a customer’s new vehicle is meant for the workday commute and nothing else. In that case, comfort and fuel economy are the top priorities, and we can offer a car that matches the criteria. If the vehicle is meant for weekend drives in the mountains, we can provide choices to support power and better handling.
By asking a series of questions, guided selling helps your sales reps find the right offering for your customer, even if they lack intimate product knowledge. Questions like company size, industry vertical, and geography can give you more information about the relevant offerings.
Don’t offer all the products—just the most effective ones
In many cases, the customer knows what they are looking for in a solution, but they don’t know what product they need. By transitioning from a product selection approach to more guided selling, your sales team can offer a complex product mix that speaks to the customer’s challenges without requiring them to know the specifics about the product itself. “These include complex, often high-tech items where customers may need to be educated on a product’s many features and functions,” said Salesforce experts. “Especially at higher price points.”
How does guided selling look?
Start by conceptualizing with the result in mind. Be clear on what your company hopes to achieve by implementing a guided selling tool. This is important not only to justify funding but also to establish a clear vision of what success will look like and how you plan to measure it.
The size of a guided selling modernization project depends on many things. For instance, a company that sells a wide array of complex products will require more implementation effort than one with a narrow or straightforward product mix and configurations.
If the sales team is already highly trained, the need for close monitoring is reduced, and the implementation is lower. Conversely, if sales rely on highly-trained configuration experts and the goal is to enable sales to better configure and sell their products, they may require more effort. Some companies like to give users the choice of how much of a guided approach to take. If both a guided and non-guided practice are necessary, this might require more effort.
By making the selling process easier, you can also enable resellers and channel partners to more effectively sell according to your company’s best practices. Finally, you lay the foundation for allowing end-users to make a self-service approach.
Guided Selling Case Study
We worked with one manufacturer who sells highly complex hydraulic hose assemblies, and so the CPQ project required in-depth knowledge of their product mix and their customers’ build stipulations.
Configuring was time-consuming for their sales team and sometimes prone to error. Simplus built a system that allows users to “describe” the aspects of a hose, such as pressure rating, heat rating, diameter, bends, etc., and the system built one for them. This was much better and easier than memorizing a vast product catalog and building assemblies from memory.
Today’s guided selling tools enable your sales team to take your business to the next level by offering personalized, solution-oriented strategies. We can help simplify the process. Let’s talk about ways we’ve helped other companies transform their sales tools to target a more meaningful customer experience.
Michael is a Delivery Director here at Simplus. He has over ten years of experience with enterprise consulting in the CPQ space. Michael ensures that our consultants actively provide value to customers throughout their revenue operations journey. Prior to joining Simplus, Michael was a partner at CirrusOne, growing the company into a premier CPQ consulting firm. Michael has a BS from Harvey Mudd College in engineering.