Solution Selling is under threat because it’s ageing. Solution Selling did really well because it brought with it a very structured approach to selling. The premise was that if you follow a methodology, a process; first step do this, second step do that, you would be successful. This approach was very appealing to Baby Boomer Sales Professionals born between 1946 and 1964. Baby Boomers liked this because they were brought up in a world that taught them that the way to be successful was in essence to be the same as everyone else. Be structured, work hard, be disciplined, keep your head down and follow orders. In the battle of the sides of the brain, with this generation the left side won hands down. It was no contest.
Daniel Pink at the Yammer conference this week in San Francisco talked eloquently to this point. He rightly pointed out that a new generation is taking hold of business. By 2015 the average age of Generation Yer’s will be 30. Why is this significant? Generation Yer’s are almost diametrically different to Baby Boomers. There is nothing structured about the way they approach their lives and work. They have been brought-up in an internet powered multi-tasking real time world where different is great. The right side of the brain has fought back and is fast taking control.
In my last blog I wrote about the End of Solution Selling. The premise being that because buyers have access to so much knowledge about the products and services that we are selling to them there really is little need for a sales person. According to the Corporate Executive board buyers go at least 60% of the way through the buying cycle without calling a Sales Professional. Further, the CEB concluded that buyers increasingly view the Sales person as being more of an annoyance to them than a valuable resource of insight and knowledge.
My viewpoint is that this is only part of the reason why Solution Selling is under threat. The other part is because buyers are increasingly of a different generation profile to the ageing population of sellers. Think about the likely outcome if a baby Boomer sales professional tries to sell to a Generation Y buyer by trying to impose a rigid and structured approach made-up of meetings and milestones. The outcome is not likely to fall favorable on the side of the seller. Generation Y buyers view the Baby Boomer as annoying not just because they provide nothing new but because they try and sell in a way that turns them off.
So, Solution Selling is under real threat because it’s ageing. It was designed to support a Baby Boomer buyer/seller generation profile that was married to structure and process. Today buyers and sellers are getting quick divorces because the seller is not able to adapt to the different generation profile of the buyer or those that are influencing the buyers on the decisions they make.
Sellers must learn to quickly adapt. Sellers must learn to take advantage of the communication channels that Generation Yer’s are increasing adopting; think Mobile and texting rather than PC and email. Sellers should consider different approaches to meeting with Gen Y buyers. Instead of meetings and agendas think Tweet-Up’s and Yam Jam’s and instead of formal presentations and proof of concepts find ways to influence the conversation in the leading on-line B2B user groups and forums that Gen Y buyers are attracted to as key information sources.
For Microsoft Dynamics Partners the implications are particularly important especially for partners who are choosing to focus on the ‘Territory through Partner’ route to market (See the Microsoft Routes to Market Strategy blog at www.alandowzall.com). The reason for this is that this route to market depends completely upon the partner’s ability to sell. Partners who invest in developing the ‘Insight’ building skills of their sales professionals and encourage/train on the adoption of new Social Selling practices are the ones best placed to be successful.