Selling the Solution: Seven Best Practices

Yesterday, we posted a blog on the benefits of e-commerce in solution based selling.  Today, we'll delve into best practice tips.

Best Practice #1: Focus on customers’ cares and concerns. Today’s buyers are skilled at gathering information, and typically complete two-thirds to 90 percent of their purchasing journey before connecting with you[i]—which means they’re more interested in how you can solve their problems than being “sold” on your company or products. A detailed grasp of their day-to-day challenges helps you tailor solutions that genuinely meet their needs, so you provide value without overtly selling. “Stop thinking about campaigns and start thinking engagement,” advises Lori Wizdo, principal analyst at Forrester Research, in a recent blog post. “Marketers who continue to build campaigns, and make offers, around products and product features will be perceived as ‘tone deaf’ to the multichannel customer. Customers will engage with marketers who meet their needs—their changing needs—for different information and options during the buying journey.”


MarkMaster: Fixing Pains Drives Big Gains

Frequent customer requests for e-procurement led MarkMaster, a supplier of marking and identification products, to analyze the problems buyers were trying to solve—and revealed that their paper-based buying process cost more than the products themselves. In response, MarkMaster began leveraging e-commerce through the Ariba® Network and never looked back. Online updates now keep buyers well informed about order status, and electronic order configuration eradicates the need for calls about lettering, ink color, or other details. This has enabled MarkMaster to achieve 20 percent year-over-year growth without increasing overhead for customer service and sales. And selling the solution, rather than the products, is key to their success. CEO Kevin Govin describes how, during one customer presentation, “We went through the whole explanation of how our e-commerce process works, and it wasn’t until the end of the meeting that they even asked about our prices and wanted to see the stamps and badges,” says. “That really opened our salespeople’s eyes.” (Check out this video to hear more about MarkMaster’s approach.)


Best Practice #2: Embrace the change as a fundamental business transformation. Moving to solution-based selling focused on e-commerce represents a major shift in the way you do business, so be prepared to champion it as such. Obtain executive buy-in up front to ensure you have the support necessary to succeed, and map out a comprehensive strategy to drive and maintain the desired culture change across the organization.


Fastenal: Solution-Based Service Simplifies Customers’ Lives at Every Turn

Helping customers effectively manage inventory is central to the full-service, solution-based sales approach used byhttp://www.ariba.com/assets/uploads/documents/Case%20Studies/Fastenal.pdfFastenal, a rapidly growing fastener distributor and full-line industrial supplier. The company’s proprietary Fastenal Managed Inventory (FMI) solution eliminates the need for customers to hold large quantities of spare parts on their shelves by providing rapid dock-to-dock delivery, with organization, binning, and barcoding handled onsite and one-hour turns on emergency orders to ensure customers get needed parts fast. Point-of-use vending machines dispense frequently used consumables like latex gloves and polishes right on the shop floor. The result? Not only can customers better manage their spend, they also eliminate time formerly spent comparing pricing on individual items and adding small purchases to the batch sheet. Sales meetings now center on how Fastenal’s solutions and services can best meet customer requirements, elevating the discussion beyond parts and pricing.


In the next blog, we'll share some additional best practices
If you don't want to wait until tomorrow to learn more, go to the Supply Lines group to read the full article.



[i] “Buyer Behavior Helps B2B Marketers Guide The Buyer’s Journey,” Lori Wizdo, Principal Analyst Serving Sales Enablement Professionals, Forrester Research, October 2012.

[ii] Train, Coach, Reinforce: Best Practices in Maximizing Sales Productivity, Aberdeen Group, October 2012.

[iii] Sales Performance Optimization 2013: Aligning the Right People, Processes, and Tools, Aberdeen Group, February 2013.

[iv] 2013 State of B2B Procurement Study, Acquity Group, May 2013


This article is part of the current issue of Ariba Supply Lines. Ariba Supply Lines is a quarterly newsletter that provides valuable tips, best practices, and the latest thinking to take your online business relationships with your buying customers to the next level.

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