When it comes to channel sales and channel partner management there is a wide array of sales methodologies available to the channel sales manager. From “SPIN Selling” to “Conceptual Selling” and “The Sandler System”, the vast number of sales tools and channel sales training available to channel managers is enough to make their heads spin. Of all these however, perhaps “Solution Selling” is the most appropriate for joint sales of enterprise solutions in a channel environment.
Wikipedia defines solution selling as a sales methodology. Rather than just promoting an existing product, the salesperson focuses on the customer’s problems and addresses the issue with appropriate offerings. The problem resolution is what constitutes a “solution”.
This is important because it helps the channel sales manager and the channel partner to develop trust with the buyer. According to research from Hubspot only 3% of buyers trust sales representatives. Unless a sales person can demonstrate value and insights to their challenges, they will not be successful in winning the sale. When it comes to co-selling with channel partners both parties must be able to engender trust in the buyer if a positive outcome is to be achieved. For this to happen, both the channel manager and the channel partner must have a single vision of the unique advantages that their solution will bring to the customer.
The benefits of successful joint solution selling in a channel management environment are extensive. Successful joint solution sellers report higher win rates, more satisfied customers, higher partner confidence and loyalty, more differentiated offerings and more accurate pipeline management as a result of better insights into their deals. Solution selling is a part of channel management that usually requires formal training and certification.
So what does the solution selling process for channel managers look like? It is typically comprised of seven stages:
- Prepare: Research the client’s challenge / issue and understand their business before your first call with them.
- Diagnose: Use open ended questions to discover more about the customer and their challenge. Remember that questioning is at the heart of the solution sales process.
- Qualify: Is there a good fit between their needs and your joint delivery? Is the opportunity itself “real” with a defined budget, authority, need and timeframe? Does the opportunity match your ideal customer profile? Is it winnable?
- Educate: Convince the customer that you fully understand their business need.
- Solve: Demonstrate to customer how you will help them achieve their goal. Consider using demos and free trials, case studies, mock-ups or even proof-of-concepts.
- Close: Probe for any remaining objections and try to understand your position versus the competition.
- Post-Sales Satisfaction: Deal with “Cognitive dissonance”, the technical term for what is informally known as “Buyers Remorse”.
Joint solution selling in a channel management environment is complicated but is also a critical contributor to joint sales success. Demonstrating the value of both parties offerings is key to building trust with buyers and using a formal solution selling process will keep both parties on the same page. Channel managers need to prove a credible solution for everyone in the buyer team, including Line of Business buyers, while channel partners need to understand how to demonstrate their added value in the overall solution.