When selling a complex product it’s easy to think the product in itself is the major obstacle. That’s not necessarily the case. Let me share the analysis from a workshop I lead recently.
So I’m in this interesting workshop in the middle of nowhere, no sorry, I mean middle of Europe.
We’re discussing the “complex product” forward and backward.
After sorting out some initial confusion I’m a little confused.
This is supposed to be a complex product. This is what I’m told anyhow. The problem is that I don’t see the complexity.
On the whiteboard there’s an overview of the fourteen major cost drivers. That’s it. I really don’t understand how this can be difficult.
In these situations it’s often a good idea to take one step back. So I ask straight out, how anyone can say that the picture on the whiteboard is complicated.
– Once you get this far it’s easy, says the sales manager.
– The problem is to know if this is the right product for this customer, says the product manager.
– And how you know it’s the right product, asks the Swedish consultant (that’s me) and looks at the sale manager.
– Sales has to know it, says the sales manager smiling because we both just realized where the real complexity lies.
The problem is not the configuration in itself.
Once you know what product to suggest it’s easy.
The difficulty lies in knowing which of the 65 products in the portfolio to configure in the first place. The difficulty is to find the best compromise in a very diverse and overlapping product portfolio.
So in the process of explaining product selection some guy came up with an understandable parable. Although it might just seem like a simple and memorable story it actually teaches a central lesson in selling something complex.
– It’s like choosing between the BMW 3 and 5-series. In principle the big sister is a better car. But depending on how you configure the car you can make the little brother outperform the bigger sister at the same price-point.
This is exactly the complexity with the product we are analyzing.
What we should be looking for was the possibility to compare different alternative to optimize the customer value. So with this insight it’s back to the whiteboard. The rest of the workshop we worked out a guided approach to product selection.
The product in itself may not always be the challenge. The solution is sometimes to be found elsewhere. As the product manager Matthew concluded the meeting:
– This gospel of guided selling will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations and the end of all competition will come. (24:14) Sales has to know it