What Solution Are You Providing?

December 14th, 2016 - Posted by Jamie Thomson, Managing Director


Often at this time I sit down to write a review of the year type piece for the blog. It is good to look at what has happened over the last 12 months and look forward to what is around the corner. However this year and more specifically in the last few weeks a topic has been brought up on several occasions and so I have decided to re-visit a topic we have written about before, Solutions Selling and more specifically the strength of the problem you are solving.

The basic principle of Solutions Selling is that when you meet with a customer or potential customer you find out their problems and then solve them. Simple right? Well no, it’s rarely that easy, often they will not know what their problems are and are even less able to prioritise them, so meetings have to be exploratory and solutions have to be bespoke.

The number of times we see the same solutions being offered to potential end users is surprising to us, yes businesses do face similar problems but those are more often than not the weakest problems to solve. By weak we mean they are not reasons to build a strong long lasting relationship with you, you need to look for more complex issues to solve and then make your case that you are the only ones able to do so.

The Weakest Solutions to Sell - Price, Quality & Customer Service

Everyone will have read statements about price (often replaced with value), quality and customer service on a printer’s website and it is often the stock answer to the question, “what are your unique selling points?” (Stock answer and unique in the same sentence is probably a good indication that something is not right!) You can probably add in statements about turnaround times / speed of delivery too.

In a B2B relationship, if you are starting your pitch using one of these then you have just made one of the weakest pitches for the business you can. Let’s look at why they are weak problems to solve by splitting them into 2 groups:

Quality / Customer Service: Think of it from the perspective of your potential customer, they do not expect quality or customer service to be bad, in fact they will demand that they are both excellent if you want to keep their business. When you are solving a problem that is a fundamental expectation then you are not really solving anything. It is a bit like a restaurant putting “We will not give you food poisoning!” at the top of their menu, well your fundamental expectation is that you will not be poisoned eating at a restaurant, it is redundant that they tell you that you will not be. In fact now it has you thinking that it was a problem they solved, but did they solve it?

Price: No one is going to say that price is not important, it is however a really weak problem to solve and one that printers too often rely on. If your solution is related to something that can be bettered by someone else and that checking that thing is really easy then you have a short term win and a longer term problem. Or in other words, if you can walk into a potential customer and get new business by beating their current prices, then the printer down the road can do the same to you. Just like there is always someone stronger or more intelligent, there is always a cheaper printer. Delivery time is another example of this, easy to check, easy to do better than someone else.

The Strong Solutions to Sell

There is a mid-tier set of problems to solve that I am going to skip over in order keep this blog to a reasonable length. These are what we like to think of as off the shelf solutions (so still fairly generic), more important for your customers to solve and by solving them you are creating a stronger barrier to entry for other printers to get the business than price for example. It might be that you are offering to maintain their brand integrity over multiple office locations or the ability for them to track and control what is being ordered and by whom. The only advice here is to make sure you are solving their problem and not your own. For example, convenience is often a problem that is part of a Web to Print pitch, but actually sending an email and saying “print me 200 business cards like last time” is at least just as convenient for your customer as going online and ordering them, in fact it might be more convenient to do it by email. What you have solved is a problem for yourself, that is great, but not for winning new business.

So what are the strongest problems you can solve? Well, in the introduction I gave you the answer. It is going to be a custom solution to a problem that your potential new customer has identified, or more likely you have identified through your initial meetings, as being important. Our top tip here is to use your mid-tier solutions to listen for key words to explore further and then tweak your proposal accordingly.

Solve them all

You may have noticed that I have not directly related this to Web to Print software much at all. There is a big reason for this and it distinguishes our biggest customers from the rest, the ones that are processing thousands of orders a month through their Web to Print solution rather than hundreds. They have not gone in to potential clients to get print orders or online orders. They understand that they have a set of tools and skills that when combined in different ways can solve potential customers’ problems. More than this though, they solve a lot of problems for their customers, all the biggest, all the mid-tier and all the weak, even when they have to add to their own tools and skills.

Their pitches will be based on solving the biggest problems for their customers, but they will be constantly looking to solve as many issues as they can as they understand the rewards for being a vital part of their customers supply chain is both loyalty and volume / value of work they get.

To see how we can help solve some of your customers problems please contact us