Over the last 5 years, the fact is: prospective customers have reduced, frozen or eliminated budgets for new products or solutions. Yet many organizations are thriving in this environment. How are they doing it? What are they doing? Many cite having adjusted their selling strategy from solution based to provocation based. Let’s compare the strategies.
Solution Selling typically starts with asking discovery questions to gain insights into what the customer feels is their pain. Then the vendor aligns his offering or services to remove the customers’ pain. A thorough demonstration of the solution is done, with a transition to a close. The funds required to make a purchase usually come from budgets already set, or funds that need to be allocated for in the next budgeting cycle. Hence the problem with a solution selling approach; it lacks the compelling “catalyst” that demands that a purchase decision cannot be delayed.
Provocation based selling takes a different approach. It helps the customer see their “pain” points through the larger lens of a competitive or industry view. The customer feels the pain, but has not been able to clearly articulate it. Provocation selling brings the customers critical business processes to the forefront. It uncovers the potential risk, exposure or cost associated with the problem found with the process. As providers of the solution, salespeople develop the explanation as to what’s broken, why it’s broken and the implicit costs associated. We then connect the customers’ problem with the solution that our product or service provides. The customer views the situation with urgency, and “finds” the necessary funds to move forward. Waiting or delaying is not an option.
1. Identify a problem that will resonate with a line executive in the target organization
2. Develop a provocative point of view about that problem (one that links, naturally, to what your company has to offer);
3. Lodge that provocation with a decision maker at the right level in the organization who can take the implied action.
For the next few quarters as we struggle through the end of this recession, customers will continue to monitor expenditures and be hesitant to invest in new products and services. Sales strategy must accommodate these concerns while continuing to drive growth. In many instances provocation selling will be the answer. It will require salesforces to ask the right questions that will help customers understand why they must purchase now. Once you have proven that your product or service helps cut costs and improve revenue, you will gain trust and continue to make the number.