Is Solution Selling Right For You? — The Startup Sales Guy

As an entrepreneur, you are justifiably proud of the great technology in your product. But that’s not what you should be selling. You should sell the solution your great technology delivers. It’s very tempting to rattle off a list of super cool features your product has, but that’s not what your prospect is looking for. They are searching for the solution to a specific pain they are experiencing.

This sales process is solution selling. Introduced in the 1970’s in the book What Great Salespeople Do: The Science of Selling Through Emotional Connection and the Power of Story by Michael Bosworth and Ben Zoldan. The concept is simple, sell your prospect the solution that will solve a specific pain you have identified. To use this sales method, think of yourself as a consultant, not a salesperson.

Steps in solution selling

Here are steps you can take to transition to a solution selling process.

  • Do your research. Spend some time figuring out your prospect’s biggest problem.
  • Apply the research. Understand how your product or service can solve the problem.
  • Determine interest. Next, learn if your prospect is ready to purchase.
  • Teach them. Show your prospect how your solution will benefit them.
  • Show them. Use their language to describe the pain and demonstrate your solution.
  • Close the sale. Answer any remaining questions and close the sale.

Solution selling works because it allows you to focus on WIIFM (What’s in it for me) from your prospects perspective. People buy from those they know and trust, and taking the time to understand their pain builds trust. Solution selling allows you to focus on the why rather than the what of your product.

How to determine your prospect’s pain points

The best way to learn what pains your prospect has is to have a conversation and ask open ended questions like:

  • What problems in your business keep you up at night?
  • What is causing this pain?
  • How does this pain affect your operation?
  • Who does it affect, which departments?
  • What will be the biggest benefit from solving this problem?
  • How many people will benefit?

Once you’ve determined your prospect’s pain, figure out how your product can eliminate it. Your listening and inquiry skills become your main tools. Asking the right questions and really listening to the answers are key.

How solution selling has evolved

Solution selling was introduced in the 1970’s and the market has changed and evolved. An article in The Harvard Business Review, The End of Solution Sales suggests that customers don’t need sales people the way they used to. “But now, owing to increasingly sophisticated procurement teams and purchasing consultants armed with troves of data, companies can readily define solutions for themselves.”

In today’s sophisticated environment a study by the Corporate Executive Board showed that on average nearly 60% of a purchasing decision was completed before having a conversation with a salesperson. Many sales situations evolve into fulfillment conversations where the final decision often comes down to price.

This change in how companies make major purchasing decisions has changed the way sellers qualify prospects. In the past they focused primarily on those who have an acknowledged need, a clear vision of their goals and a clearly defined purchasing process. According to HBR, star performers focus on the prospect’s agility, their ability to move quickly toward a purchase. And second they look for companies with an emerging need or those in a state of organizational flux.

This evolution is Insight Selling. As the name suggests, the salesperson’s challenge is to provide not just a solution to the prospect’s pain, but new insights into pain they might not be aware of yet. This is where focusing on companies with emerging needs or those in a state of organizational flux comes into play. These companies are more likely to be receptive to a different approach and because they are agile the sales cycle can be shorter.

Solution selling isn’t dead as some have said, it continues to evolve.


Does your sales structure need a tune-up? Is your CRM set up to capture each interaction with every prospect and customer? Is your sales pipeline efficient? It would be my pleasure to review your structure and provide you with suggestions to improve it. Book a no-obligation, no-cost consultation and let’s take a look together.

Originally published at on June 10, 2021.




I help new companies build and manage a sales organization that will deliver results.

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Michael Dalfonzo

Michael Dalfonzo

I help new companies build and manage a sales organization that will deliver results.

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