How have technology sales tactics evolved over the past 30 years? In the “End of Solution Sales” the authors argue technology sales have matured through first education sales, then solution sales and now challenger sales.
Unlike the past, today the most effective sales people challenge their customers with difficult questions, new insights or novel approaches. The conclusions are buttressed by data from Corporate Executive Board surveys of a few thousand sales people.
It stands to reason that the first wave of technology sales required mostly education about the benefits of a new technology. Very few knew about the technology and without the Internet, researching a purchase without speaking to a salesperson was impossible.
As customer awareness of technology deepened and the Internet blossomed, customers began to wonder how new technology can benefit their teams directly – hence the solution sale. Solutions are sold as out-of-the-box software configurations targeted to a particular vertical or use case.
Today, with customers performing 60% of their purchasing research online before ever speaking to a sales rep, cookie-cutter solutions aren’t sufficiently differentiated to close the sale. Instead, the best sales people offer insight and point out flaws in reasoning or use cases not yet considered.
Sales people have always been in the business of education. But as customers’ understanding of technology has advanced, so too must the sales pitches.