When it comes to specifying building materials, architects are looking for products that best solve the problems of their clients. The more problems a building material helps solve, the more likely that product will be selected. But if architects don’t know what your products do and how they can help resolve issues, they won’t select them. Solution selling, which focuses on the benefits to your customer, is the best way to inform designers and project owners about your product’s value.
Sell solutions, not features
Solution selling, an approach that gained popularity in the 1980s, focuses on a potential customer’s needs, as opposed to a product’s features. Before you start selling, you need to step into the buyer’s shoes and understand their industry, pains, and goals. In order to sell solutions, you must ask yourself some questions about your potential customer:
- What are their goals and problems?
- What challenges are they facing?
- What is the best outcome that can solve their needs?
So, what is the difference between a product’s features and the solutions it provides?
A feature is a standalone fact about the product that may or may not solve any problem(s). For example, “Our ceiling panels have an acoustical rating of STC 50” is a feature of the product.
A solution is the answer to a problem: because the product does X, you no longer have a problem with Y. For example, “Our acoustically rated ceiling panels reduce noise by 50%” frames the feature above into a solution to a problem.
Because building materials sellers work so closely with the products they sell, they often use features as shorthand for the solution. To them it’s obvious that an STC 50 panel reduces room noise. However, when architects or owners are looking for these products, they aren’t focused on the features. They are thinking about the problems that need to be solved by the products. They don’t know what product is right for their problem, so this is your chance to tell them.
Solution selling means that you are ultimately selling your customer on two things:
- Your solution will make the problem go away.
- They are investing in a solution that will deliver value over time.
How to find the solutions your product provides
The first step in the process of finding the solution(s) your product provides is to understand your customers. Ask past, current, and potential customers about why they are purchasing your product, what concerns they have, and why they chose your product over others. This will help you understand the problems your customers are facing and begin to see how your product can help resolve them.
Next, you’ll need to understand your product, not just its features. You’ll need a working knowledge of your product’s capabilities, both what it can do and what it can’t do. With this information, you can begin to develop a list of solutions that your product can provide.
Products can have multiple solutions. For example, Kohler toilets are known for their flushing performance (“Achieving the best flushing performance”). However, you may also highlight that the flushing is quiet, the profile of the toilet fits into certain sized or shaped spaces, that the profile fits certain aesthetic styles, or that it can help reduce water use more than other toilets.
Explaining the solution in greater detail helps prospective customers think about how your product will improve their project. For example, you may say that Kohler toilets offer quiet flushing to help maintain privacy.
Architects and owners don’t necessarily rely solely on name-brand recognition to make their choices. They need to know that products will perform as needed and as intended in their projects. This means that even name brands have to offer the right solutions to their customers.
Differentiation is the name of the game
Solution selling allows you to differentiate your product from the competition. You can illustrate how your product addresses certain problems that the competition may not. For example, if you both sell faucets, but yours can solve three of your potential client’s biggest problems, it will be much easier for you to make that sale.
Differentiation creates value, helps defend higher prices, helps in non-price competition, creates brand loyalty, and creates a perception that there is no substitute for a specific product. These can all help your product stand out.
There are a lot of ways that you can differentiate your product from others.
The value of a building material or product lies in what problems it solves. Solution selling, as opposed to feature selling, requires marketers to understand their customers, the problems they face, and how their products can solve these problems. Building materials firms will have greater sales success when they can clearly convey the problem(s) their product solves.