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Why “Solution-Selling” (Problem-Solving) Is the WRONG Conversation to Have with CXO Buyers

“Solution-Selling” and “Problem-Solving” are a sure-fire way to diminish your perceived value and chance to sustain multiple conversations with prospective executive-level buyers. As a B2B seller, you are not along: it is a common self-inflicted forced error that has been going on now for decades.  But that fact should not be comforting to you.

The CXO buyer is the RIGHT person to engage, but Solution-Selling is the WRONG conversation to have. If you intuitively believe this to be true (because you don’t have CXO buyers pounding down your door to talk to you again and again), but you choose nonetheless to proceed anyway with the Solution-Selling mantra (clinically that’s called cognitive dissonance), odds are better than 50% you won’t get a 2nd or 3rd meeting with that CXO buyer.

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FINANCIAL COMPETENCE is the Ultimate Critical Success Factor to Successful C-Level Selling

In his book The Speed of Trust, Stephen Covey says trust is not built solely on integrity, but on competence as well.  For B2B sellers wanting to become trusted business advisors to customer executives, I believe business competence is an essential personal competence.  In my view, business competence is more important than “softer” communication/negotiation skills or detailed product knowledge.  I also believe that financial acumen skills, knowledge, and capabilities are the foundation of business competence and that most sales people underestimate the importance of financial competence in articulating solution value and building trust with senior decision-makers.

Financial Knowledge is the Foundation of Business Acumen

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Do the “Discovery” and “Qualification” Stages of Your Sales Process Deliver a Personal ROI to Your Customers?

This may come as a surprise, but as a former “buy side” C-level executive, I believe one of the primary goals of the discovery and qualification phases of a B2B sales process should be to deliver value and a personal ROI to the buyer.  Bet you never heard that before from your sales manager or a “sell-side” trainer!

Unfortunately, most B2B sellers believe discovery and qualification conversations are ONLY about asking probing questions and interviewing the prospective customer. In other words, the discovery and qualification phases are purposely designed to benefit the sales person, with no personal ROI intended to be delivered to the person or persons sitting (unfortunately) across the desk from them.  This early behavioral signal and disconnect during the start of the sales process will likely manifest itself later on in a weaker qualification outcome and longer sales cycle, or worse yet, in a stalled deal.

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Are Your Customer Success Stories “Sticky” with CXO Buyers?

Customer testimonials are a widely used prospecting tool by most of you who sell technology solutions to B2B customers. But, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Most of your customer success stories or reference stories aren’t “executive sticky”.  They don’t provide sufficient business value insights or compelling financial reasons to cause a busy CXO buyer to dig deeper into your solution.  They don’t act as a catalyst to make your executive engagements, well, more “engaging”.

Today’s executives know a lot about your company before they ever agree to talk with you. As a buy-side executive, I did my homework to get ready to meet prospecting B2B sales professionals.  If they piqued my interest enough to get on my calendar, I intended to get a ROI on the meeting.

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"REV" It Up To Get On The CXO Buyer's Radar Screen

If you are a sales professional, you have probably spent a good deal of time communicating the financial value of your solution: the so-called value proposition.  Your company’s marketing department has probably spent a good deal of time crafting it for maximum audience impact.  And your company executives probably have spent a good deal of time traveling around the world repeating it to anyone who will listen.  It might even appear in an advertising campaign or in your company’s annual report.

Chances are your value proposition is structured as one simple financial message suitable for all customer audiences. It’s easy to understand, easy to articulate, and universal in appeal; it’s a beautiful elegant work of prose.  Your competitors repeat a similar mantra, but your company is well-respected and known to deliver on its promises.  Right?

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