Every month, the editors of all of Jameson Publishing's (Business Solution's parent company) magazines and web portals get together and review the feature articles of each pub. In these meetings, we disscect articles, critique the writing, word choices, headlines, optical elements, and many other things in an attempt to make the following month's articles even better for our readers.
After having sat through almost 6 years of these meetings, there are some mistakes I've seen new editors repeated make. The one I'd like to talk about here is printing a quote from a VAR that one of their keys to success is being solutions-focused. That is, rather than just sell products, they try to understand the problems their customers are facing and build solutions to solve those problems. As a concept, this is great. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's the most important thing you can do to succeed as a VAR. Where we ran into trouble in our writer critique meetings was experienced editors (myself included) saying that such statements were common sense. Basically, we didn't think such quotes should be in the articles as we strive for unique actionable information, not common sense in our magazine.
Some recent interactions with VARs in the POS (point of sale) space showed me that the experienced editors have been wrong. The fact is, not every value-added reseller is a solutions provider living up to the "value-added" part of their title. In speaking with these POS VARs, I learned that many were experiencing new-found success by becoming more consultative and solutions-focused because for years they weren't. One in particular told me that he now spends the first 45 minutes of an initial sales call simply probing to understand the prospect's business challenges. In doing so, he'd seen his close rate skyrocket.
I'd assume you know why solution selling is important, but I don't want to assume anymore. Let's just stick with POS VARs. So much is happening in the world of retail and technology that today's solutions provider can create some really compelling solutions that customers might find difficult to pass up. A recent complete solution example I saw at NRF in January comes to mind. Panasonic had a booth which showed how many of its technologies (video cameras, POS systems, digital signage) could work together. Imagine walking in a store, having a video camera and software use analytics to estimate your age and then have the digital signage displays serve up messaging just for your age group. That's a solution you wouldn't be offering if you sold only POS and no digital signage and video cameras. However, if you take the time to understand your customer's needs, you open yourself up to a whole new world of technology -- and sales! I challenge you to examine your business and sales force to determine whether or not you're really truly selling solutions. If you're not, you're most likely missing a huge opportunity.