For common problems a technology solution likely exists. “Start-up” culture and values have permeated business thinking. To drive sales, technology firms proactively develop minimal viable products (MVPs), with the purpose of gathering early feedback. User feedback is essential to discovering a product that customers will adopt and love. The discovery process is messy, and failures are common, therefore, it is normal for technology solutions to be developed with little initial evidence to indicate future success. As a result, we live in a world where there is an app for everything. If success is found, to fully monetize the development cost, there is an incentive to modify the existing solution to meet the needs of new clients. These forces have culminated into the manifestation of platform solutions primarily hosted on “cloud services”. Platform solutions are built for everyone, are highly scalable, and can be heavily customizable; a powerful and easy to use solution for all your technology needs. For a low monthly subscription fee, take your business to the next level by unleashing a technology transformation. Amazing! Welcome to solution sales.
Despite being faster than a speeding bullet, and able to leap over tall buildings, solution selling has its kryptonite. Any mild-mannered journalist will know, the devil is in the details. When developing a product for everyone, at the design phase, developers must envision the most common problems and use cases for their target audience. It is impossible to predict how users will use your product. Technology development has three aspirational pillars: easy to adopt and use; low cost; and fully featured to the client’s needs. In the best-case scenario, there will only be enough resources to cover two pillars well and compromises must be made. Despite the limitations, solution selling dominates. Selling a super solution reduces the friction at the most critical stage of the technology sales cycle. It is hard to say no to something so powerful, inexpensive, and easy to use. Solution sales is super.
Problem focused sales turns the process around, and then takes three steps back all the way to the client’s unfortunate childhood. The goal of problem sales is to understand the need before offering a solution. We can envision a problem focused solution as a tool on a utility belt. A focused solution targeted to the specific task at hand. Scaling up problem sales into a “technology partnership” the result will be a collection of solutions like the utility belt itself. With the utility belt, ordinary is transformed into super. Problem focused sales have challenges too, understanding the core problem requires introspection and dialogue, and this process will be a source of friction throughout the entire process. Humans naturally do not like change, and are also defensive of past decisions, not wanting to appear incompetent or incapable. It is far easier to accept a super solution that can do everything, than to unpack the complexity of, and clearly define messy problems.
“People do not update like software”; it is important to set expectations when adopting the super solution as there is a natural incentive to overpromise. When starting with the problem first, expect friction and challenges. If a process is ineffective, simply adding technology into the mix will not solve the actual problem, true solutions necessitate a deeper dive to clearly define the problem and needs to be addressed. The journey of matching solutions to problems that developers and clients take is a messy one. Understanding the two paths of technology sales will help “keep you in the game”.