What is the difference between ‘strategy’ and ‘solution’?

In sales there can be confusion between what constitutes a “strategy” and a “solution”. However, there should be no ambiguity whatsoever regarding when each should be presented in your sales process.

What is a strategy? In simple terms ? the what. The overall plan. The means to help the customer fulfil their needs or achieve their goals and aspirations.

What is a solution? The how. The doing phase. The vehicle used to implement the strategy. The detail.

Once the client’s need or goal has been agreed, it’s then up to the salesperson to identify the best potential strategies before recommending the most appropriate solution.

A discussion about the most relevant strategies and also broader strategies (thinking beyond the scope) will help your customer find “buy-in” and understand how they can move from their “current situation” to where they would like to be in the future; “desired outcome”.

Contrastingly, I regularly observe the customer determining the sales process ? approaching a company and requesting a solution and a price without having spent time with the salesperson collaboratively exploring the problem or gap between the “current” and “desired” state to map out the right strategy options.

If the salesperson simply agrees to this type of sales process ? this does little more than incubate “crazy customers” and reduce the customer’s “buy-in”.

Furthermore, it demonstrates the salesperson is looking for the quick wins and is largely about “the sell” instead of creating the right outcome for the customer and business.

When you collaborate with your customers in developing strategies you are by virtue of your sales process developing their trust and a working relationship you can then build upon.

If your sales process is set up in the right way, there is minimal wastage as the strategy you develop then forms part of your offer once a commercial agreement has been made.

By not introducing solutions in this phase you not only empower the customer with the right information to help them make the right decision, but you also demonstrate that you are acting as their “trusted” advisor. How important is trust in sales? It’s everything!

By having the customer understand and agree with the strategy, you are far more likely to be successful when you introduce the solution.

And if possible avoid recommending only one solution – instead propose options and give your customer a choice. Why? So they can make the buying decision and own it.

This article was first published on April 23, 2010.

Trent Leyshan is the founder of BOOM!, Australia’s leading sales training and development specialist. He is the co-founder of Expand People and author of OUTLAW: Fight for your customers and sell without fear.

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