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Levels of configuration – product configuration, sales configuration, guided selling

Two basic questions:

What do you sell?

How do you sell it?

Now, these two questions are the fundamental starting point of analyzing what level of configuration a configuration project should focus on.

In this blog post I will present what can be seen as a starting point in guided selling and look into the level of detail the customer needs to be asked  – whether internal or externally.

Interested? Continue reading to learn more!


The car sale analogy

To initiate this discussion, I normally start with something that I’m sure most of us can relate to: the sale of a car

The normal car is built on a standardized platform, it has four wheels, a powertrain with an engine, a gearbox and exhaust and a chassis . This is also typically on what level we’d ask the customer to define or configure their car.

Now, what color do you want it in? How many horse power? What fuel? Leather seats? And so on, all the normal “car questions”, right? From here on I will refer to this as sales configuration.

There is also a layer of more detailed configuration.

If the engine is bought from an engine manufacturer to be mounted and added by the car manufacturer, they will buy it and configure it according to the requirements; the power output, mounting options, fuel intake placement, air intake, battery requirements, electrics output and so on.

To the customer buying the car, it is not necessary to decide on these details, but for the car manufacturer it is crucial. It is their product configuration level.

More refined is of course the guided selling. This is the configuration process that starts with the customer’s needs:

  • How many kilometers do you commute every day?
  • How many longer trips do you usually take per year
  • How long do you expect to own your car?
  • Do you have pets?
  • Will you travel to IKEA frequently (luggage space)?
  • How many are in your family?


You are presented with a solution that either can involve buying a car, signing up for a car pool, buying a van and so on. Because in that initial sales configuration there were some ground rules already set.

If you went to Land Rover, you probably felt that you needed an all-terrain type of vehicle that is quite luxurious. If you went to Kia you’re probably looking for a low maintenance, easy to commute in, no frills type of ride. Right?

The terms guided selling, sales configuration and product configuration are not limited to or defined in any way by my car example, but I hope I’ve been able to illustrate the difference between them – and spark some interesting thoughts for you.


Understanding the customer with guided selling

Using guided selling can be extremely efficient, especially if the system or product you sell has strong diversity in selections or if many questions are necessary to specify the product.

It really can help you funnel in and understand your customer.

This comes down, in part, to the principles of “The paradox of choice” written by Barry Schwartz.

Fewer selections makes us take more defined decisions and influences the user to a commitment.

To me, guided selling is not only about asking overall questions to funnel down selections. It is just as much about displaying information other systems don’t have at hand at all times.

Dimensional criterias or limitations, price updates, graphical interface or help texts, current bill of material listings and more.

We’ll be coming back to this in future blog posts about guided selling.

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Author: Ralf Gesswein