John O' Gorman

New Perspectives On Sales Success – Research From RAIN Group

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Selling has entered a new more dynamic era. New methodologies are challenging old methodologies with increased levels of research and innovation among sales consulting and training organizations around the world.

The New Lifespan Of A Sales Methodology

Sales methodologies once ruled supreme for decades, however the winds of change are now blowing. The lifespan of new ideas in selling is getting shorter and that is probably a good thing.

Long standing notions in the profession are now being challenged. Most notably solution selling – whose demise was proclaimed provocatively in the HBR last year. But those who topple the old are also themselves being challenged.

Solution Selling – the corner stone of selling since the 1980s was toppled in a highly successful marketing coup that culminated in a HBR article in the second half of 2012. The topic dominated the blog-sphere for months.

 

Challenging The Old

The Challenger Sale warned that sellers needed to ditch the out-dated Solution Selling. They needed to go beyond a passive acquiescence to the buyer’s stated needs. The seller needed to regain the initiative – to take control, tailor the approach and teach the buyer.

Have you challenged your sales methodology recently?

Putting insights at the center of the sale, the salesperson’s new role was to challenge.

Fast forward 24 months and RAIN Group is Challenging the Challenger methodology with the same fate as endured by Solution Selling.

 

Challenging The New

Everybody agrees on one thing buying has changed. They also agree that the changes in buying demands a new response from sellers and that traditional sales strategies are no longer enough. The agreement ends there.

How have you responded the changes in buying?

The doctors agree on the diagnosis, but cannot agree on the prescription. Challenger put forward its prescription a little more than 12 months ago. Now RAIN Group casts doubt on the challenger approach with research reinstating solution selling as the basic foundation of all selling, upon which two more levels of skill must be added.

 

Building On Solution Selling

In a well packaged and intuitive methodology and research paper RAIN Group proposes 3 levels of sales mastery as follows:

Level 1:“Connect” sellers must connect the dots between the buyers problem and their solution in a way that demonstrate credibility and builds the relationship. But that is the minimum price of entry.

Level 2:“Convince” sellers must be able to convince buyers that they’ll get a worthwhile return, the risks are acceptable, and they are the right choice. That is key to preventing stalled deals.

Level 3:“Collaborate” is when the seller becomes a key component of buyer success, bringing new ideas to the table and working with buyers as a team. That is the ultimate success for the seller.

The team at RAIN Group has breathed new life into the debate about the demise of solution selling and the new realities of selling.

In so doing it confirms what many people already felt – that traditional solution selling is not dead but of it’s own it is not enough – that something more is needed. It is what happens after solution selling (level 1) that really matters.

 

A Time Of Chrysalis In Selling

We have entered into an era of change in selling, just as in buying.  That change presents opportunities as well as challenges.  In choosing the image for this post that is the message I wanted to communicate.  Recognize what it is?

It is a close up image of a butterfly wing and a metaphor for change (as well as short lifespans).  After all, ‘What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly’ to use the popular quote from  Richard Bach.  The same is true in respect of sales methodologies.

The trends and developments in buying are going to continue and no doubt, there will be further debate. From where we stand the trends in buying are brewing up a storm, with the rise of the competitive tender, more complex buying processes and the increased power of procurement will continue to challenge B2B sales teams and their methodologies.

As the Rain Group research suggests selling must keep up with the quickening pace of change in buying, whatever the casualties in terms of concepts or methodologies may be.

 
Image by Emmanuel Huybrechts from Laval, Canada [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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