Saturday, April 18, 2009

The fatal flaw with consultative sales and educating the customer

Consider how much money is being spent (wasted IMHO) "educating" PSPs and creatives about the Power of Print. It made sense in the evangelist days. But those days are long gone. Nowadays if you convince someone that digital print is cool, that just means they are going to search the web, talk to their friends both in and outside the industry, and get the best deal.

It's the same thing as consultative sales. Unless they are paying for the consulting up front, when it gets to decision time, they will get the right box for the right price at the right time. It's not personal, it's just good business.

It's actually much easier and safer to sell boxes. For a Print sales person you only get comped for money in the door. Nobody gets comped for solving a customer's problem nor for education. All it does is give you the chance to bid. A chance to bid is of value. But it will always come down to the right product at the right time for the right price.

Meanwhile the vendors seem to think that if only the Print salesman could be educated. It's not about education. It's about time and incentives.

The real answer for a person is at the end of the post at the link..
This is the one thing I’ve come to believe in most, that if you do unto others as you would not like to see done into yourself, Karma will provide the path to enlightenment.
The real problem is how do you get comped for Karma? The snippet follows:

Karma and Digital Printers | Digital Print 360
"His service to the customer was exemplary, and the customer said they were ready to start on the project at the beginning of the following week. He was dancing on clouds, because everything worked in the solution as proposed.

On Monday, he stopped by the customer’s office to pick up the order. It was a substantial order, one that would make his number for the month. When he got there, the customer was distant, and barely looked at him as he spoke. It turns out that after the proof of concept, the customer had returned to his office with samples in hand, only to find another print provider waiting in the lobby. He excitedly told the vendor about this dilemma that the other printer had solved for him, and in doing so, opened the door to the new vendor to give him a bid for the same work. That afternoon, the customer signed the order with the new vendor because the price was discounted below cost to get his foot in the door. In that moment, it switched from a solution to a commodity."

Added 4/19/09 more?


  1. Stay in contact with that customer who switch from SOLUTION to a COMMODITY.

    Usually the new vendor has a learning curve to overcome on dealing with your former client that for some its costly and may provide opportunity for you to stay a phone call again to get the business again.

    And learn you lesson: stay close to your clients at all times, and keep an eye on your competition.

  2. Federioc,

    Good point about staying close and watching the competition at all times.

    That's why I think the sentence about Karma in the post is so important.

    The problem as I see it is all the talk is about "selling solutions." Often this is taken as presenting the idea of how to do it.

    What you are really selling is a safe, easy, fast way to solve the problem in the real world, not the idea of how to solve it.

    Even bloggers can have all the ideas. Ideas, like talk, is cheap. Solving real problems in real time is hard and therefore expensive.

  3. When the strategy behind solution selling is driven down the to sale rep's level, it can be a waste of money. To be succesful, companies first need to segment customers based on what they value. Selling solutions to a transactional buyer is a waste. At the very least, resp need a good way to qualify prospects before they begin to invest time and effort. Even then, there will be stories like the one above where it doesn't pan out and the hard truth is that the buyer just informed you that what you thought was a relationship based on value delivered really wasn't. That doesn't mean you scrap the whole thing. It is easier to sell transactions than solutions and easier to sell onn price than value. There is just not much of a future in it. It pushes all of the responsibility for growth of revenue and income back on the product R&D group.

  4. Scott,
    Well said. My quibble is only that it's possible to sell both. The right sale to the right customer. Newbies and folks with Box DNA keep on keeping on.
    Meanwhile if they work on a team that includes someone with biz dev DNA, the box sale turns out to be the best way to uncover the solutions sell client.

    The trick is to get the comp right so the box person gets a taste when the big sale is made.

    The really hard part is that the solution sell goes on forever. The brand is becoming the outfit the client depends on for tmw's solution. As in "you're as good as your last sale."