People buy solutions, not products

by Tim Witcherley on May 9, 2022

Once you truly understand your audience, you can make yourself completely invaluable by becoming the answer to all their problems.

Business 6 min read
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Your product is fantastic - if it weren’t you wouldn’t have put effort into creating it, honing it and marketing it, right?

But here’s the sticking point. Your product can be as brilliant as it likes, but in the same way that people buy from people, (and so making sure the values, the motivation and the human elements behind your company are visible and apparent in everything you do is extremely important), they also buy solutions, as opposed to products or services.

For clarity, here are some classic examples of this in action: 

  • My computer is too slow, I need a faster one
  • My client retention is very low, I need something that will change that, quickly
  • My marketing strategy isn’t converting into sales, I need a new way forward
  • My dog chewed his lead, I need a stronger one
  • My website isn’t generating leads, I need one that will work effectively
  • I’ve worked really hard this year and I need a break, I want a holiday

 

The common thread that runs through these (fairly diverse) requirements, is the outcome - the answer - the solution. However you want to package it, that’s what you should be focussing on, because that’s what your customers are looking for. 

If further proof were needed that this is the case, you only have to look to Apple founder Steve Jobs, who said: “People don’t buy products, they buy better versions of themselves.”

He put this into action with the (now retro but at the time completely revolutionary) iTunes and iPod. His pitch went a little like this - at a small press event in 2001, he pulled an iPod out of his pocket and said: “1,000 songs in your pocket.”

Jobs marketed it entirely on the outcome - what you get, the difference it will make. And it goes without saying that it worked fairly well. 

The importance of value-based selling

Steve Jobs used what has since become known as ‘value-based marketing’, which means selling the ways in which your products can improve your customers’ day, week or life in some way.

Value-based selling is essentially the act of prioritising your customers’ needs over what you want them to invest in - which means not pushing a product at every stage of the buying process, but instead highlighting the many ways in which you - and your product - are the answer.

It’s selling the story inside the book as opposed to the dimensions of the cover, or talking about how easy-to-use and foolproof the oven is for making birthday cakes, as opposed to talking about the spec of the doors. 

How much time are you dedicating to the specifications of your product, instead of the problems it can solve?

Dan Tyre, Inbound Fellow at HubSpot, says: “Prospects are less interested in 'seeing how it works' and more interested in making sure you understand their needs, have a comprehensive idea of their requirements, and that the product will work."

In other words, your product expertise only gets you so far. Instead, it's about your ability to uncover what your prospect truly cares about.

Robert Falcone, the author of Just F*ing Demo!, agrees, and says: "If you know what their primary concerns are, you can show them just enough of your product that aligns with their immediate problems and get a better result."

You can read more about this (alongside some other key marketing trends for 2022 that are well worth a read) from our friends at HubSpot.

Customer success

It is no exaggeration to say that value-based selling is the key to increased retention and customer growth, not to mention overall loyalty. Which is exactly why we hold it in such high regard.

It wields all this power because really understanding your customers means listening to and empowering them, which (unsurprisingly) they love. 

In turn, it will increase your value through increased brand recognition and adoption, which leads to value realisation. From that, you glean increased customer loyalty, which brings you authenticity (not to mention results). 

In fact, recent research by Gartner found that 86% of customers found it easier to purchase from vendors with a prescriptive approach just like the one we’re describing here. 

But that’s not all - it will also reduce the sales cycle, as you’ll achieve quicker outcomes from fewer man-hours. This means greater operational efficiency.

Retention will then increase as your sales and renewals increase, reducing the all-important ‘churn’, as it is known. 

Once you’ve decreased the churn, you’ll be in a position to cross-sell, set up referral programmes and adopt advocacy - or to put it another way, grow and scale. 

Why data matters

By using a data-driven approach to marketing, customers will start to adopt your brand and your service almost without thinking - it will just come naturally to them. In doing so, your relationship with them will evolve to the point that every client becomes a quality source of referrals. 

This is because they will see you as a trusted brand that understands them, helps them, and makes their life a little (or a lot) easier. And why wouldn’t you want to recommend a company like that to everyone? 

Furthermore, all this will happen with very little input from you - the data will do the work for you - and you’ll be delivering outcomes as opposed to selling. 

How to sell the solution

First, you need to really know your audience (or Know Your Customer/KYC, as it’s known in corporate circles), which means understanding what their frustrations, problems and pain points are. To do this, we recommend using The Cognition Brain, because that’s exactly what it’s for. 

For the uninitiated, the Cognition Brain turns data into engagement and sales.  It’s made up of three systems: Data, Story and Engagement. Together, they form a psychologically robust, commercially effective model that changes internal organisational behaviour. This then translates directly into engagement and sales.

It does this by turning data-driven consumer insights into compelling stories that improve engagement, both in quality and volume. This means interactions become more productive and, in tangible terms, sales increase.

Solutions and outcomes versus results

Outcomes and solutions are not results - they are very different things. Outcomes and solutions are larger, more meaningful business impacts that ultimately drive overall success. 

They are, as examples, important products, services, profits, and revenues. They create meanings, relationships, and differences.

Or to put it another way, outputs, (such as revenue and profit), enable you to fund outcomes; but without outcomes, there is no need for outputs. 

The Marketing Journal describes an outcome as “a clarified goal, finely tuned that can be used to organise strategies and actions that help the customer achieve success.”

By becoming a trusted partner as opposed to a salesperson you will be able to tap into their deep industry experience to deliver knowledge and insights, which will mean you can better help your customers succeed.

The art of conceptual selling

Conceptual selling as a methodology ties into this neatly. 

If you’re unfamiliar with it, conceptual selling reframes sales as a process whereby a seller persuades a buyer to purchase a concept (their desired outcome), not a product. It focuses on listening to the client and understanding their underlying needs.

In doing so, you show that you understand your customers’ problems and pain points, and that you genuinely have their best interests at heart.

Value-based selling in action

We use value-based selling with all our clients, (which we would say is why the results speak for themselves). As one of many examples of this, we worked with Sparc to increase their export revenue by 50%. 

Or as David Buckley, Owner and retired Managing Director of Sparc Systems Limited puts it: “Thanks to our partnership with Cognition, we can now measure the return on our marketing budget – our visibility has increased and our order book significantly improved."

Sparc doubled its turnover thanks to our approach.

When you begin selling the solution to people’s problems you set yourself apart from your competitors - they claim to be the best, but you can prove it. 

If you’re ready to kickstart your marketing using a value-based selling strategy, or you have any questions at all about the process, get in touch with us today - we’re always happy to help.

Tim Witcherley

by Tim Witcherley
May 9, 2022

As the Managing Director of Cognition, Tim's drive is to ensure every Cognition client gets tangible, commercial outcomes. In increasingly complex marketing and sales environments, his relentless focus on delivering value, quickly and simply, is one of the main reasons why Cognition is now one of the UK's leading digital agencies.