Blog post

The End of Solution Selling? – Hardly…

By Patrick Stakenas | October 03, 2012 | 6 Comments

I have been meaning to write about an HBR article the was published last August on “The End of Solution Selling” and the referenced material in the comments that followed on line related to “The Challenger Sale”  The sales methodology or concept of “Challenger” has certainly stirred debate within the sales world and the interest of those swimming in the social pool of media that are carrying around the haunted nature of sales forces spiraling out of control, crashing and burning only to have the  next sales leader come along to douse the fire with the latest craze of sales training, methodology or technology. Every new concept sounds tasty to sales leaders who are looking for the “silver bullet” or the fresh way to drive more revenue. 

At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong answer.  Sales people must have the capability, competency and overall skill to sell.  And sales management must coach and teach them, marketing must make sure the message is clear and of course there must be a need for what you are selling. Ok, if you are selling a product to purchasing and all they are buying is price… a widget is a widget so to speak.. then a different skill may be needed than one selling complex consulting solutions or technology.  But either way, salespeople must understand their products, their company’s message, what problem or issues they solve and why they are better than the competition.

Customers want solutions to problems and answers to issues, and the advice that goes along with it. Salespeople must be engaged and prepared with the knowledge and the capability to offer this insight when needed.  There is no silver bullet, no one type of sales person that will be successful in all instances, different sales environments require different approaches, however the underpinning for all sales people is “adding value”, “having the capability” to add that value and the “competency” to deliver the message.

What are you seeing, breathing, living?  Is this a “Silver Bullet”?  Or is it really just a repackaging or spin on what successful leaders already know to be true.. Thoughts?

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  • Bart Mosele says:


    Spot on. Just because someone can sell snow tires in North Dakota, it doesn’t mean they can engage multiple stake holders buying a complex IT purchase. Think of the eye opener it has been for companies transitioning from selling storage to cloud computing services. You had a sales person selling within very defined parameters, (your needs fit within the box and the price works so lets do business) to here is whats wrong with your business and who needs to be involved to fix it (blank sheet of paper, what do you want to do)

    Well done.


  • Matt Dixon says:

    Patrick, have you read the book? Judging from your comments, it doesn’t sound like it (since we devote a lot of real estate to talking about how there’s no silver bullet or quick fix out there and Challenger is no exception). I’d be happy to mail you a copy, just say the word.

    As to whether it’s new or just same old, same old, you should read the book and judge for yourself. In our experience, it’s changed the minds of some of the most experienced sales leaders at some of the biggest companies in the world–none of whom are gullible enough to be duped in the way you suggest. But again, read the book and judge for yourself.


    Matt Dixon

    • Great to hear from you Matt and thanks for reaching out. I have read the book, it lays a great foundation for discussion here, and it is good that we agree there is no silver bullet. Sales leaders face (and have always faced) the ever-changing up-hill battle to increase sales, and knowledge / information is the key to deciding what will work best for them and their sales force. I look forward to hearing from others! Thanks again for weighing in.

  • achuthan says:

    Listening skills is the very important aspect in selling understanding the probelm of customer and what it cost so that as a IT professional we can work out the savings and influence the buyer to take our suggestion to implement the IT solutions.simple things to remember good olden days we use to write tons of books with our parker pen with gold nib today we can do it in minutes and one thing even we wanted to make mistake our computer brains never make mistake.The IT revelotion save us from carbonsin and save our trees so what else we wanted from the IT revelotion a wrong notion present in the mind set of people it loose job sorry it regain jobs and sustain the organization in the recession times it create jobs,made online millionaires,made billionaires,young age create google search engine and made billionaires so with out IT how this could happen.30 years of hardcore marketing i sold various products and service but when i start selling IT solutions i feel joy since i am able to save my mother earth from this co2 emmission.Getting online presence and make it simplfy using IT solutions and taking the right guideness from people like gartner is a great for the sucess.As a IT professional my probelm where to get right guideness after hearing my probelm gartner given solutions this only posible because of the listening skills of gartner representatives thanks gartner.

  • Bob Apollo says:

    Books (and blogs) often have to lead with a provocation (“The Death of Solution Selling”?) to get the audience’s attention and to win the right for a few minutes more of their audience’s time.

    I’ve been helping a number of clients think through the implications of the Challenger Sale in their markets, and I go along with Matt’s comments: the book offers no silver bullets and no miracle cures.

    In fact, more than any other sales methodology I’ve come across, it stresses the need for sales and marketing to work together over the long haul to develop an approach that attracts, engages, qualifies and converts more of the right sort of prospects.

    As the authors point out, the methodology isn’t for everyone: the impact of a “Challenger Selling” mindset are far more profound in complex, high-value, considered purchase environments.

    That’s where I’ve been applying them and where, in my experience, the approach works – particularly in elevating the performance of average but smart sales people.

    But it shouldn’t be thought of – or implemented – as a way of teaching sales people how to sell. It’s much more powerful when you think of it as a way of coaching the whole organisation (and, by the way, it’s customers) how to think.