Asking Old Questions Delivers Old Results: C-Level Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

Sometimes all the effort in the world won't get you where you want to go.

Sometimes all the effort in the world won't get you where you want to go.

At some point “pushing boxes” gets a little tiring.  As a business owner or sales representative you know that you have to raise your game and start selling bonafide solutions.  Yes, yes, I know, “solutions” can be a dirty word.  But if defined and sold correctly solution selling yields much higher margins and long term customer satisfaction.  It’s well worth the effort to get it right and to get started today.

Here are a list of common mistakes when embarking on a solution selling regimen and how to fix them.

Mistake #1: You have no idea what a solution really is.  First of all, what is a solution? A solution is any combination of hardware, software and best practices that are used to solve pressing business problems for your customers.  Each customer has unique problems in their workflow and day to day operations.  A solution that works for one customer may not work for another even if they’re in the same vertical.  Solutions are tailored to specific customer needs so you’ll need to meet with your customer to find out what those are.  Mistake #3 will give you some suggestions on how to find out what those are.

The person who buys from you today may not be able to approve the purchase of a solution.

The person who buys from you today may not be able to approve the purchase of a solution.

Mistake #2: You believe your current customer contacts will get solutions.  If your bread and butter today is pushing hardware or other one time items you are probably selling to department heads and procurement. Your traditional contacts may have the insight and approval levels to buy a printer, server or desktop computer but they likely don’t have the ability to approve a combination of things required to deliver a solution.  Worse yet, they may not even have an understanding of the larger corporate issues that don’t directly impact their particular job function.  Trying to sell a solution to them will always lead to wasted cycles.

You’ll need to move past them, up the food chain but how?  This is no easy task and no matter what advice you get it’s going to be tough going but.  But it must be done.  To get started, talk to your most trusted contact at the organization.  You’ve got street cred with them and you’ll be surprised how many of them will help you if only you ask in the right way.  An example:

“Tom, our business relationship is really important to me and we’ve done a lot together.  I think we might have some unique ways to solve some larger business issues.  These solutions require executive buy-in and in order to see if there is a fit I’m asking you to get me in front of (insert C-level name) for 15 minutes, no longer.  Can you see how they look for a brief meeting next week?”

Mistake 3:  You approach a C-level contact the way you approach a department head.  The only way you’ll ever sell a true solution and reap the rewards is to sell high.  You need to sell at the C-level and this takes a new set of questions and tactics to get their attention.  They don’t care about the specs on whatever you’re selling: They care about solving pressing strategic business problems.  In order to gain their trust, you must throw away the old qualifying and probing questions and replace them with ones that speak directly to them.  Here are some examples:

“Mary, as the CFO I know that you can’t do everything or look at every solution out there.  Can you tell me what your 3 top strategic initiatives are for the year?”

“Looking at last year’s annual report for your company I learned that in 2018 you are focusing on improving workforce satisfaction.  Can you explain that in a little more detail for me, what kinds of things are you looking to improve for them?”

“Last year you bought 10 new printers and MFDs from us which was a big jump from the year before.  All the devices you bought from us have full color scan beds and capture and routing software. What has changed with your workflow to require the additional horsepower and software?”

Asking the right questions should be a matter of priority

Asking the right questions should be a matter of priority

I could go on, but the main idea is to ask questions that directly relate to the WHY of what they are doing.  Make sure the questions are about their strategic goals and objectives.  Their answers will provide you with pure gold that will help you to design solutions that get their attention.  If done correctly, you will solve a pressing business problem that will include hardware, software and other items that will get you paid handsomely.

Now it’s your turn!  Have you already made the turn from box-pushing to solution selling? Do you have any tips of your own that you would be willing to share? Your opinion and expertise matter and we can’t wait to hear what you have to say!

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