As their current product market matures, many B2B companies look to broaden the product line and move toward offering more complete solutions. For example, a company might move from providing lighting for the operating room to improving operating room effectiveness through lights that slow bacterial growth.
We have seen this move from products to solutions many times with our clients. They develop a stellar Idea that could make them more important to their customers by repositioning them as a solution provider (rather than just a product vendor). However, despite having a strong Idea and good intentions, many companies fall short in gaining market adoption.
Moving from product to solution presents a significant change in selling motion as solutions are targeted at new buyers and involve more complicated discussions. Often, when companies struggle to gain market adoption, it’s because they fail to make the sales motion change or update their messaging, targeting, and offer design. It’s crucial to pinpoint and solve the issue or issues so that the new solution can drive market success.
Leveraging Professional Services (PS) as an integrated part of the go-to-market strategy for the new solution can improve its chances of success. PS can enable companies to more quickly correct issues with the solution’s go-to-market program. How does PS help with this? First, consider the mindset the executive is in when making decisions. They progress through the three phases:
- Whether to Act – is this Idea worth pursuing?
- How to Act – how can we go about evaluating and adopting the new Idea?
- With Whom to Act – who do I trust to help me with this change of process and enablement to gain the value?
Many traditional sales efforts emphasize Step 3. However, sales should focus on all three phases and become comfortable with creating demand (rather than just reacting to it). Though not as experienced in commercial transactions, PS talent is familiar with the steps of helping customers evaluate decisions. Therefore, the new solution should be converted into a buying journey that matches the way executives buy. This might need to entail a series of projects, or steps, rather than just one. These steps, which should naturally build upon each other to deliver the complete solution, include:
- A project to evaluate the customer’s situation in relation to the Idea – does it truly apply?
- A project to verify the impact of the implementation of the Idea – think pilot or mock-up.
- A project that is a complete implementation or roll-0ut.
- A project to maintain relevance in the client’s business and seek new opportunities to bring to the table.
Although the delivery, and perhaps contracting, of the solution, has been broken up into steps, the sales process should not be focused on the parts. The initial sales effort should be focused on the complete Idea, examining its importance and relevance to the customer’s business. The first exploratory project is just the first step to them realizing the solution and is broken off separately so that it can be priced at a level that is easy for the executive to buy. Throughout the process, PS should play the role of solution expert, explaining how the solution works, why it works, and the steps necessary for success.
This change in the overall approach will accomplish several things quickly:
- Make it easier to get into deals with customers. Additionally, although it does not seem like it, this approach shortens the sales cycle to the big deal.
- Provide more data back to the organization about the positioning or the solution. This will lead to better explanations and more information shared between the customer and the seller throughout the initial projects.
- Identify changes needed in the overall solution by working through the initial project with customers.
- Lower risk on pricing the big deal by making the customer aware of their issues and needs in the initial projects. Better pricing is a result of customer awareness.
- Allow sales representatives to focus on the Idea early in the sales effort and lower the risk of new sales motions.
Written by: Dean McMann
About the Author: Dean McMann is a Founding Partner at McMann & Ransford with 35+ years of experience in consulting and professional services. He is a sought-after expert and speaker on topics of B2B differentiation, professional services best practices, and overcoming commoditization. In addition to his extensive experience in the Professional Services space, Dean also serves on the board of various non-profit organizations.