Strongman Solution Selling Model

Solution selling is complex and very exciting. Whether you’re selling Business Process Automation (BPA) or another form of solution, it is likely that you have a tough job that involves a great deal of complexity.

This stuff’s chess; it ain’t checkers.

There may be dozens of decision makers, and while all of them may not be required to say “Yes,” chances are that ANY of them could say “No.” You could be faced with all sorts of competing projects across the enterprise, and political and financial landscapes can change quickly.

STRONGMAN offers a compelling model and simple acronym to help you succeed in your solution selling.

I’ll spell it out and then very briefly speak to each key area.

S-T-R-O-N-G-M-A-N

S is for Solution

T is for Timeline

R is for Review

O is for Options

N is for Need

G is for Galvanization

M is for Money

A is for Authority

N is for Negotiation

These are critical areas to address in your sales cycle.

S, Solution.

Whether or not the prospect fully agrees at the onset of the engagement, you need to be sober in your assessment of whether or not you have a bona fide, legitimate solution for them. Otherwise, why bother?

T, Timeline.

If the customer has a legitimate project that you are selling to, what is the exact timeline? The implementation timeline? Is there a compelling event or deadline driving this project?

R, Review.

Forget about entertaining and servicing a prospect that is not actually in review of the project. If they are simply in research mode (vs. review mode), I would suggest that you balance this project with more advanced-stage opportunities in your pipeline to increase your sales success.

O, Options.

What options exist for your customer? Chances are there are at least five options:

1. Your solution

2. Your competitor(s’) solution,

3. Build it themselves or develop it in-house

4. Do Nothing

5. Improve or upgrade their existing process (perhaps by adding resources or conducting training). You need to be able to sell against their available options, especially the option that most companies choose — which is “improve or upgrade existing processes.”

N, Need.

Is there a need, do you understand the need and does the customer agree with you on what their need is?

G. Galvanization.

This is my favorite one. Remember, you are not in sales to entertain and serve — not completely anyway. If you are working with customers who are not returning your calls promptly, not bringing other key contacts into meetings, not exposing you to post-purchase processes or display other key indicators that they are not as active and committed to the sales process as you are, you should either gain their commitment or move on.

M, Money.

If there is a project in motion, is the funding of the project pre-approved? Does that funding meet your solution’s cost and all of the related costs — such as the staff the prospect will need to devote to deploying your solution? Are you sure of the fiscal cycles? Is the funding coming from resources such as:

1. Project Budget,

2. Cap Ex (Capital Expense requiring a high level sign off),

3. Op Ex (Operating Expense)

4. Departmental Budget

And keep in mind, most companies have the ability to overspend on budgets, or borrow from other budgets, at about the same rate my wife does — which means they can do it — so don’t ever let a negotiator whittle you down solely because of a specific budget.

A, Authority.

A Champion is one thing, an Authority is another. Is the senior executive even aware of the project? Who is the specific authority relative to: signing contracts, producing purchase orders, reviewing legal documents, developing and implementing training programs, technical review and implementations, user acceptance, etc? If you are selling solutions, you had better be exposed to a variety of individuals with legitimate authority over each one.

N, Negotiation.

Many times the real selling doesn’t start until it is time to negotiate. But you want to hear the saddest piece on solution selling: The negotiation process is typically when the sales rep gives up the most concessions and it is also the point at which, in most cases, the customer has already made the decision to go forward. They’re exposing the sales rep to resources that are post-purchase resources (such as legal, technical deployment folks, training folks, purchasing people) and somehow the sales rep feels obliged to start whacking away on their own proposal. It’s insanity.

That’s STRONGMAN. I’ve used it for almost ten years in my own business and as a tool for enhanced empowered sales training. I hope you find it an effective model for your solution selling success.

Five Step Sales Activity Control Model

The “Five Step Activity Control Model” allows people to learn the “Why” relating to sales psychology in addition to the “How” relating to sales procedures which is traditionally taught. The end result will be that an individual will be able to be more successful in their personal and business environment by applying this model without worrying about remembering the details. Unfortunately, with this type of training, not all people will improve their sales skills dramatically, however, this system will allow a few to reach a “superstar” status.

Traditionally, most sales training involves the following elements.

1). Approach

2). Information gathering

3). Qualification

4). Presentation

5). Closing

6). Follow-up

The reason that most sales training involves these steps is that “in order for the human brain to make a decision and take action, it must go through certain steps or processes.” The traditional elements listed above are designed to lead the prospect to a decision and action. However, to be the “most efficient” at this process, we believe that the salesperson must also understand the mental steps that the human brain must go through to reach a decision and take action. The reason for this belief is that, we as sales people, will naturally violate the model! Therefore, we as sales people must learn to resist human nature.

Visual Reference

Draw a representation of a 5 tier stairway on a piece of paper.

In the upper left corner write – Needs & Desires. In the upper right corner write – Yes or No.

Number each tier from bottom to top and label 1. Curiosity 2. Interest 3. Information, 4. Belief and 5. Action

Continue to make notes we as you read.

Five Step ACTION & CONTROL Model

In order for the human brain to make a decision and take action, it must first have Curiosity, which then must grow into sincere Interest. At that time, and only then, can the brain objectively digest larger amounts of Information. When and if the brain reaches a sufficient level of Belief, a decision can be made and Action will occur.

Please note that the first step of the model is Curiosity and the third step is Information. Unfortunately, even trained salespeople have the tendency to give endless information immediately. By starting at Step Three, (Draw an arrow upward under and towards Information) the required mental process is short-circuited. The prospect then is not able to make a decision or take action; thus there is “No Decision”. (Make note to the right of Information). The salesperson then interprets that response as a “No” decision and a potentially good prospect is lost.

The next mistake the salesperson makes is not understanding what Action is desired. Most salespeople enter each approach expecting to sell each prospect and become disappointed when that doesn’t happen. Positive expectation is wonderful, but in this case misdirected. In order to be able to accept this concept emotionally, we must understand and embrace the concept of the “Law of Large Numbers” which says that only a certain percentage of the people we approach will be real prospects for potential sales. It falls upon us to get real “Yes’s” and real “No’s, and be able to accept each result the same emotionally.

The Model is designed to control our own environment while “leading the true prospect to Action and eliminate the non-prospect in the most efficient manner possible” and eliminate the “No Decisions”. Therefore, the desired Action is either a sale or the efficient termination of the process whichever is appropriate! We will get Yes’s or true No’s and eliminate the “Maybes”

If they are a Prospect but today is just not the right timing, we set up an impending event for the future to revisit the proposal.

If we are to expect a prospect to take Action, we must provide them with a process which allows them to create a high level of Belief that our desired Action will satisfy their Needs or Desires. Therefore, we must first identify their Desires and Needs, then relate those Desires and Needs to our desired Action. In addition, if we are to do this in the most efficient manner, we must control the process.

There exist two rules of Control which we must follow:

Less is More: Just the opposite of what our natural tendencies are, we must give the least amount of information possible until we get to the Information step. So, the process is to give bits of information, less than expected, and relate that information to the prospects Needs and Desires. To establish their Needs and Desires, instead of Telling more we must be continually Asking questions.

No Three in a Row: The second rule of the process is that we never answer Three questions in a row without following with one, if we are to maintain control of the process.

Questions: There are two basic types of questions we use in this process:

1. Open-ended questions which solicit general information and encourage the respondent to provide general information. These types of questions are used more in the Curiosity and Interest steps while identifying the prospects Needs and Desires. Use open questions to find out who, what, where, when, how, and why.

2. Closed-end questions, which basically solicit yes/no, type answers. Sometimes these can be either/or type questions that imply a yes or no. These types of questions are used to solidify a prospects response, to test if the prospect is moving to the next step and in the closing or Belief step. (Mr.Mrs. Prospect, if you could qualify… , would you… )(… if we could solve those problems for you, would you… )

The Five Steps

This model is to be used as an outline for the sales process. It provides the agent with the freedom to utilize their own words, personality and style. Once the model and rules are internalized, the agent will always be able to evaluate where the prospect is in the mental process and know where to go and what to say next.

During the first two steps, it is extremely important that we answer three basic qualifying questions. Never proceed to the Information step, if appropriate answers aren’t given for these questions!

1. What is the prospects ability to pay?

2. Are you talking to the decision maker?

3. Is the timing right for a decision?

Remember that people buy “mental concepts” and not things. Even when buying “things”, they are relating to mental images of how that “thing” can effect their life.

Step One: CURIOSITY

The object is to identify the prospects Desires and Needs as quickly and as efficiently as possible and resist the temptation to regurgitate information. Therefore, the most important phase of the sales process is the first phase where we approach the prospect initially. As the old saying goes, “You only get one chance to make a good first impression”. That same principle applies in the sales process. Most sales are lost during the approach.

Remember, in this step, the object is to generate enough Curiosity that the prospect wants more information. However, it is NOT where we give much information. We give bits and pieces of information, less than expected, relating our desired Action to their Needs and Desires until we have cultivated their Curiosity into sincere Interest. We check for their level of Curiosity with closed questions.

Step Two: INTEREST

This is merely a process of cultivating the prospects Curiosity to a level of Interest sufficient to mentally accept larger amounts of information. It’s a simple, yet difficult process. The salesperson asks a question and gives a bit of information relating Action to Needs and Desires.

If the process is working, the prospects will also be asking questions requesting more information. The difficult part is to resist the temptation to give too much information. The proper process is to give small bits of information mixed with questions which either relate desired Action to Needs and Desires or checks for the prospects level of Interest.

If the process is not working, either the prospect is not a true prospect,, the salesperson has failed to establish the relationship between the prospects Needs and Desires and their desired Action or has violated at least one of the rules of the model. If no relationship exists between the prospects Needs and Desires and your desired Action, this indicates that the prospect is not really a prospect for you. If the salesperson has violated a rule, the first procedure is to simply backtrack to the previous step and start over.

Step Three: INFORMATION

Once it has been established, through questioning, that the prospect is sincerely interested and understands the potential for the desired Action to satisfy his/her Needs or Desires, it is the salesperson’s responsibility to give any and all Information necessary for the prospect to achieve a level of Belief necessary to take Action. Again, do not give more than is necessary!

Therefore, as you are presenting Information, it is important to qualify with closed questions. Confirm that they understand the relationship, confirm that they understand the information and finally confirm that you have provided all the information they want or need.

Step Four: BELIEF

Checking to determine if the prospect has a significant level of Belief to take Action has traditionally been the dreaded process, the Close. Thousands of hours have been spent memorizing Closes and when to apply which one.

Step Five: ACTION

With the five step model, closes do not need to be memorized and are merely a continuation of the same processes used from the beginning. We simply check for the level of belief! We do this simply by asking the prospect if they believe that our desired Action satisfies their Need or Desire. We then assume the Close with a minor decision question.

We follow-up for two reasons, either behind a sale or a non-sale. If we’re following up behind a sale, the situation will dictate the necessary follow-up. If we are following up behind a non-sale, it is extremely important to do so in a punctual manner. It is important that we have the information from previous calls and that we start the process over again from the beginning, if necessary.

ALWAYS set Impending Event unless you have forever totally eliminated as a Prospect.