After watching this video about Level 4 Value Creation posted on LinkedIn, Ben asks whether the ideas popularized by The Challenger Sale and approaches that lead with insight have been commoditized. The short answer here is that we are not even close to having commoditized value-creating approaches to selling to—and serving—our clients.
The Evolution of Solutions
Mack Hanan wrote the book Consultative Selling in 1970. The central idea in that book was that being consultative meant helping your client improve their profitability. Very few salespeople or sales organizations executed the PIP (profit improvement plans) he recommended in his book. Forty-eight years later, few are even aware of his excellent work, though the book was on it’s eight edition last I checked.
You may not even be aware that Michael Bosworth developed and wrote the first book on Solutions Selling in 1994. That makes the ideas in that book decades old, and the version by Keith Eades, New Solutions Selling followed in 2003, fifteen years prior to this post. Solutions Selling was–and is–very widely and successfully implemented, so much so, that I believe Level 3 Value, the ability to solve a client’s dissatisfaction has been commoditized. That said, there are many salespeople and sales organizations that never moved past pitching themselves and their products, some being more successful than others, context being the difference in results.
The long evolutionary arc of sales approaches bends towards greater levels of value creation (and how could it be otherwise).
A Small Step for Salespeople and Their Clients
In all of human history, we have advanced steadily forward, always improving things, occasionally stumbling in the most horrific of ways imaginable. We have never, however, gone from Hunter-Gatherer, to Agrarian, to the Industrial Age, to the Information Age, and then back to Industrial Age. These advances are not universal, with some reaching certain paths before others.
In sales, we couldn’t help but stumble into leading with insights and ideas as the natural progression from solutions. It was unavoidable that the people who sat across from clients and developed solutions with them would eventually develop the business acumen and situational knowledge necessary to be able to proactively compel their dream clients to change before they suffered from their lack of awareness and/or action. This should come as no surprise, as a “trusted advisor” has always coupled the two ideas that make up the term itself.
The answer is no, leading with insights and helping the client decide to change has not yet been commoditized. It will be some time before it is replaced by something even more powerful. But over time, you can count on the bar being raised ever higher, and with it, more being required of salespeople who want to be consultative in their approach.