By Rod Griffith
April 24, 2014
My first job out of college in the early 1980s was with an information technology manufacturer and systems integrator. We resold IBM Series 1 computer systems along with our own peripherals, focusing on industrial and manufacturing markets. In those days, the sales focus was very simple: explain and sell the technology by focusing on its technical features and benefits. We called it “moving iron” in those days. And we moved a lot of iron. In fact, most everyone did. The computer industry was booming, margins on the hardware were huge, and customers were lining up to place orders. We were too young (or perhaps just too busy) to realize it wasn’t going to last forever.
This was long before the Web, of course, so customers were hungry for information and education on new technologies that could help them solve critical business and productivity issues. Technology innovations were happening at a rapid rate—and with each new product or version release, performance speeds and features would constantly leapfrog amongst offerings from competing vendors. One day, you could have the leading product on the market. But the next day, your competitor has released a product that performs three times faster—at 20% of the cost.
By the end of the 1980s, I was working for a major computer and IT systems manufacturer. It was clear to us that focusing on selling the computer technology and its features/benefits was not going to work anymore. While technical innovations were still occurring, the differences between competitive products were less distinctive. Besides, when a computer could perform a function that took 1/100th of a second, what did it matter that the new version could perform that same function in 1/500th of a second? It still looked instantaneous to the human eye. The leapfrog in performance was still there—but the benefit to the customer wasn’t as clear and obvious.
Customers just weren’t as interested in the technical specifications (“speeds and feeds”) anymore. They wanted complete, turnkey solutions with obvious business benefits—not just technology. We quickly began to retrain our sales force to focus on Solution Selling by identifying the customer’s most pressing problems and challenges, and then proposing the ideal solution to those challenges. This enforced the need to partner with software developers and other technology companies in order to provide a complete solution. It also represented a huge growth opportunity for the Services organization (which grew significantly during the next decade).
The Solution Selling approach has been dominant over the past 15 years in most all technology industries. But some key factors are causing a new paradigm shift:
The new selling approach model is thus Strategic Value Selling . The industry may eventually give it different nomenclature (“Insight Selling”, “Relationship Selling”, etc.) – but the net effect is the same. Customers are looking to build stronger, deeper collaboration with a smaller, more tightly-held team of supplier partners who provide strategic value and insight—insight that will, in turn, better allow them to become a more strategic trusted partner to their own customers.
Today’s marketers have to help their company understand and transition to this new paradigm in selling focus. I’ll discuss some of the steps you can begin to take to ready your organization for this new paradigm shift in an upcoming blog article.
Rod cofounded MarketReach in 1994, after working as a Marketing Manager at DEC, and brings a wealth of B2B technology marketing strategies and tactics to the table. Rod enjoys working with customers and sharing his vast experience of marketing initiatives, programs, events, and sales tools. If you’re a Beatles fan, plan to set aside a solid week when you chat with Rod.View our Team