There’s a proliferation of terms to describe the various approaches to B2B sales: solution selling, consultative, challenger, etc. It can get confusing to try to keep them all straight, or even to differentiate between them. So, in order to help my own simple mind to sort out the different approaches, I’ve thought of an analogy…
Suppose your client wants to build a building. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a house, an office building, a hotel or a factory, there will be four main roles involved.
At the top is the architect. As the architect, you get to spend time directly with the owners, getting to know their likes and dislikes, learning – and shaping – their vision for the building, what they want to accomplish, etc. Because of your deep expertise and your creativity, the owners will be eager to hear your ideas. You’ll get invited to discuss these ideas over dinner at their private clubs. Your pay scale is very ambiguous, but it’s very lucrative.
If you’re the contractor, you get the plans handed to you and you figure out the best way to build the design. You have a tremendous scope of authority to fulfill someone else’s vision. You solve tough problems and you may have some input if there is a question about the feasibility of some of the more ambitious aspects of the final design, but not much more than that. You might get to talk to the owners early in the process, but any meals you attend are at the local restaurant with the people who report to them. Your pay scale is driven by what other contractors bid, but you do pretty well.
If you’re the tradesman, you come in the construction entrance and do what you’re told based on the plans. You take pride and care in your work, partly because that’s the kind of person you are but also because you know that you can be replaced fairly easily. You might see the owners when they occasionally drive by to check on progress. You eat your meals from the “roach coach”. You make a decent wage, but it’s based on what the lowest qualified worker in the area gets.
If you’re the laborer, you do exactly what you’re told to earn your minimum wage. You know that if you don’t show up, your employer can drive down to the labor pool and pick up a replacement. You eat your meals from a brown bag.
Take a hard look at your sales process. Which role do you play?