Comparing solution selling vs product selling in the modern sales world

Comparing solution selling vs product selling in the modern sales world

You can tell your prospects that your product is the best. But do you know how to answer if they ask you why?


When you compare your product to the competition, are you just listing features or pricing? Or can you prove to your prospects that your product will be a better solution to their problems?

This, in a nutshell, is the difference between straight product selling and solution selling.

So, how do these two models compare in real life? Is there a place for product selling in the modern world of sales? Let’s discuss:

  • What is solution selling?
  • What is product selling?
  • Solution selling vs product selling: how are they different at a glance?
  • How product selling and solution selling differ inside the sales process

What is solution selling?

Solution selling focuses on getting prospects to hit that home run rather than the bat they’re using to hit the ball. This model spends time asking questions to understand the deeper needs and challenges of prospects, then positions the product as the ultimate solution to their problems.

Solution sellers focus on what the product can accomplish for the prospect, rather than its features. Instead of diving into technical specs and detailed product descriptions, solution sellers help prospects see how they can use the product to overcome roadblocks and accomplish their goals.

What is product selling?

Product selling is a model that focuses solely on the product itself. Salespeople using this model will spend less time asking questions and more time monologuing about the product’s features and pricing.

Salespeople using the product selling model easily fall into the trap of talking more about themselves than the customer. The most likely culprits—early-stage startup founders trying to sell their product to investors or customers, and inexperienced salespeople.

The product selling pitch is all “Me, me, me”, and tries to prove value by showing feature comparisons with the competition or even pricing comparisons. Unfortunately, this often has the opposite effect: the product is devalued in the eyes of the prospect because the only benefit they see is a cheaper price or an extra feature.

In some cases, though, product selling does have its place. For example, when a prospect has expert knowledge of the type of product you’re selling, what can be accomplished with it, and what the competition can do, they might only need a gentle push towards a sale. This is a rare case in B2B, but can be more commonly seen in B2C selling models, such as eCommerce.

Solution selling vs product selling: how are they different at a glance?

Solution selling tells the story of how the product fills a need—product selling simply lists features. Here are the key differences between these models:

Solution Sales Product Sales
Focuses on providing a solution to problems Focuses on details of the product
Highlights benefits Highlights features
Spends more time on discovery and qualification Spends more time pitching

How product selling and solution selling differ inside the sales process

So, what do these two models look like when a salesperson uses them inside the sales process? Here’s a quick look at the differences between product selling and solution selling when it comes to qualifying, pitching, and closing the deal:

Qualify

Qualification is key to understanding whether a prospect is the right fit for the product you’re selling. Here’s how each of these models acts in this stage of the sales process:

With solution: Solution sellers spend a long time qualifying their prospects. They’ll ask lots of open-ended qualifying questions that lead to long discussions about the prospect’s current challenges, goals, aspirations, and needs.

With product: In many cases, product sellers will either breeze through qualification or skip it completely. Since their focus is on the product, not the prospect, they might miss key qualification questions and jump into their pitch.

Pitch

How does each of these sales models convince prospects that their product is the right choice?

With solution: The focus here is on the outcome—how will this product affect the prospect’s life and business? How will it help them accomplish their goals? The solution seller’s pitch is highly personalized, giving the prospect a glimpse of life after purchasing the product.

With product: Product sellers have a highly-rehearsed sales pitch that they use with every prospect—very little personalization goes into this pitch. This kind of rep goes through a pitch that is very technical, focuses on features, how they work, what they do, and also the price point. A product pitch will also generally include mentions of competitors throughout, proving the superiority of the product based on what the competition is lacking.

Negotiate and close

Time to close the deal—how do each of these methods play out within negotiations and closing?

With solution: Solution sellers are happy to negotiate. They look for the best combination of features at the right pricing plan for prospects to get the most out of the product. They’re willing to be adaptable (sometimes to a fault) and focus on getting prospects the solution they need at a price they’re comfortable with.

With product: Product sellers are generally harder negotiators. They base their product’s value on its features and price point in comparison to competitors, so they’re not usually willing to adapt at this stage. They adopt a take-it-or-leave-it approach to negotiations and go in fast and hard for the close.

Why you should be selling a solution, not a product

Is there a superior method when comparing solution selling vs product selling?

Simply put, yes—in the majority of cases, selling a solution, not a product is the better model for modern sales reps.

But does that mean solution selling is the be-all-end-all of sales methodologies? Hardly!

Instead of picking one sales model and using it exclusively, take time to learn more about the other sales models that exist. Then, pick and choose which aspects of each sales model fit your own selling style and your customers’ needs.

Whichever sales methodology you chose to adapt for your company—our free collection of templates, scripts and worksheets will help you set up a winning process faster.

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