Skip to main content

Solution Management

Solution selling is a sales approach in which the sales person probes into the prospect's pain points and puts together a package of offerings to address them. Rather than selling a single offering, the sales person combines several offerings for the specific customer. (For a comprehensive introduction to solution selling, I recommend SPIN Selling.)

Just as sales people should consider solution selling, product managers should consider solution management.

Consider how some companies structure their product marketing. A friend of mine works for a company that sells hardware, software, and services. Each hardware, software, or service offering is a "product" in this company's terminology. The company's product managers manage these individual offerings. They determine the roadmap for each product, communicate the requirements to developers, and govern the marketing of each product.

The company's business clients, however, almost never buy any individual product. A combination of hardware, software, and services is necessary to address their problems. Since the product managers operate at the level of individual pieces of the solutions, they are detached from the customer.

Sales people at the company are confused about how and what to sell. Product managers have prepared collateral and strategy for marketing and selling individual offerings, but have provided little or no guidance on how to package them into a sale that comprehensively addresses customer needs.

Fortunately, business development and sales support folks have helped fill this gap. They have worked to understand the top problems that customers face and to prepare materials that help sales recognize them and sell the appropriate combination of offerings. These business development and sales support folks are playing the solution management role, albeit informally.

Have you thought about what constitutes a "product" at your company? Does your company sell solutions, or parts of solutions? Is it possible to combine these parts into comprehensive solutions? Consider transforming product management into solution management, or at least formalizing some sort of solution management role.

Comments

ScoopIrish said…
Huthwaite's SPIN Selling is a good sales questioning model, but it isn't Solution Selling. The real Solution Selling is owned and maintained by Sales Performance International. You can find out more about Solution Selling at http://www.solutionselling.com
Roger L. Cauvin said…
Thanks for the link, scoopirish. In this entry, I was referring to the concept of solution selling rather than the trademarked process.
Bernd Eckenfels said…
For complex products (like Enterprise Software, Middleware, Factories, ...) which need to be explained you are in the solution selling area even if you don't want to be.

This means you need pre-sales engineers who are able to talk to the customer on the same level, beeing able to sketch a custom solution (and map it to the product). It usually also means you have a involved long decision process.

It is possible to offer a solution so the customer sees and understands the advantage he gets. Unfortunately it is also required to do so.

In all cases the product must support customization of product lines with variants.
Unknown said…
Right on, Roger. "Products" doesn't mean software. Or hardware. Or services. A product solve a problem.

So many teams are so myopic about what their customers are buying.

I bought a Kindle. Not the ebook hardware. I also bought the software, and the content, and the document management capabilities. I bought the ebook environment.

Whether you call it product, "whole product," or solution, product managers should be looking at what the customer is buying, not what their engineers are developing.

Popular posts from this blog

Why Spreadsheets Suck for Prioritizing

The Goal As a company executive, you want confidence that your product team (which includes all the people, from all departments, responsible for product success) has a sound basis for deciding which items are on the product roadmap. You also want confidence the team is prioritizing the items in a smart way. What Should We Prioritize? The items the team prioritizes could be features, user stories, epics, market problems, themes, or experiments. Melissa Perri  makes an excellent case for a " problem roadmap ", and, in general, I recommend focusing on the latter types of items. However, the topic of what types of items you should prioritize - and in what situations - is interesting and important but beyond the scope of this blog entry. A Sad but Familiar Story If there is significant controversy about priorities, then almost inevitably, a product manager or other member of the team decides to put together The Spreadsheet. I've done it. Some of the mos

Use Case as a Black Box

Consider the following use case: Purchase Items Actor: Purchaser Precondition: Purchaser types at least thirty words per minute and has a web navigation efficiency rating of at least 40. Postcondition: For the average Purchaser acting at full efficiency, the number of seconds elapsed is no more than 30 + 20 * n, where n is the number of items purchased. The name of the use case represents a functional requirement. What does the product do, or enable the user to do? Purchase items. What are we to make of the preconditions and postconditions? What relationship do they have to the requirements for the product? Answer: the preconditions and postconditions are the nonfunctional requirements attached to the functional requirement . Another way of expressing the nonfunctional requirement would be as an attribute and associated constraint: Usability: For a Purchaser who types at least thirty words per minute and has a web navigation efficiency rating of at least 40, it shall take no

Henry Ford's "Faster Horse" Quote

You may have heard the ( apocryphal ) Henry Ford quote: If I'd asked customers what they wanted, they would have said "a faster horse". Over at the On Product Management blog , Saeed gives his take on this infamous quote. He "hates" it, and gives some compelling reasons. Saeed is spot on in his explanations. Personally, I think the quote is great, but it's a matter of interpretation. The valid point of the quote is not that it's a bad idea to facilitate a conversation with your market to better understand it. The valid points are: You must ask the right questions to get valuable answers. You must interpret the answers thoughtfully - often outside their direct meaning - to glean reliable information. Asking questions is not always the best way to "listen" to your market. (E.g., sometimes pure observational studies are more reliable.) Nonetheless, I find the quote is helpful to combat "armchair product management" in the