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Features or Feelings – Is Value Selling or Solution Selling Better?

Here’s a question you may not have asked yourself lately: do you sell based on features or feelings?

If you’ve spent a good amount of time in the world of B2B sales, chances are you’re familiar with the terms “value selling” and “solution selling.” If you’ve stuck it out for long enough, you may even have found yourself leaning more on one of the two.

If you’re new to the terms, don’t worry; chances are, you know the difference intuitively and have been practicing one or both throughout your work. Today we’re delving into the ins and outs of value and solution selling, to let you in on what’s been said about the skills of each… and let you in on another strategy you’ll want to try too.

Ready to find out which camp is the one for you? Here’s our guide to all things features, feelings, and sales.

First Up: What’s the Difference Between Solution Selling and Value Selling?

Solution selling is about gaining an understanding of your customer’s organization, diagnosing their symptoms, and offering a service that meets their needs.

This sales strategy was popularized in the 1980s, and centers on finding out what challenges the customer faces, and what offering your organization can provide to overcome them.

Historically, sales reps were encouraged to look for “hooks”; these were insights a lead shared that the sales representative could use as a way “in.” That usually meant offering a solution to a problem that the lead has.

Solution selling typically focuses on features

It’s about finding the problems a customer faces, and matching them with a solution that has the features they need to tackle those problems.

A desk showing an open laptop, a taped up box, a calculator and a mini shopping cart

What About Value Selling?

Value selling concentrates on showing customers that the benefits of your product outweigh the cost.

For this strategy, sales professionals are working to create a vision in their leads’ heads.

That vision will likely include:

  • what a lead’s organization will look like once they’ve invested in your product
  • the ease they’ll feel thanks to your product/service
  • the innovations they’ll reach thanks to your support

You’re not pitching the features of whatever it is you are offering. Instead, you’re using an emotive vision to demonstrate how your product will change their life, which shows why your product is worth every cent.

As long-time sales guru Brian Tracy has said, “Value is the difference between the price you charge and the benefits the customer perceives they will get.”

In short, value selling is all about appealing to your customer’s feelings.

So Is Value Selling or Solution Selling Better?

It’s a good question, as there are plenty of folks who have vetoed solution selling.

In fact, the Harvard Business Review has criticized solution selling for its disconnect with what the purchaser needs from a salesperson: “customers in an array of industries… are often way ahead of the salespeople who are ‘helping’ them” by using a diagnosis-based approach. This 2012 article points out that it can be frustrating when, after a customer has already done their own research, a sales professional attempts to present their own solutions as if the customer has no insight.

Criticism of solution selling doesn’t end there, though. Other pitfalls include that buyers may not want to hear “solutions” that feel like anything but, necessitating change that they’re not convinced will yield great enough results. The significant effort and research involved also need a huge amount of trust that can be hard to win.

  • Value selling has gained a much better reputation, when:
  • Customers are already convinced of an offering’s value
  • Customers feel listened to rather than prescribed to
  • Clients have the sense they’ve made an “investment rather than just a purchase”.
Big letters spelling out 'SELL' on a desk. In the corner of the image there is an open laptop just about in view.

But what about insight selling?

So is value selling the best option for closing the deal, and should we abandon all references to features forever?

Value selling is a great strategy, but there are experts out there calling for the addition of solution selling’s 21st-century evolution: insight selling. In recent years there has been a huge boom in technology services that benefit a customer, but that most of us find intimidating and hard to understand, and the average B2B buying process is longer and more complex too.

Enter insight selling: a strategy that meets the needs of customers who will purchase from sales professionals who educate them. This approach can easily be used with value selling to inform an appreciative buyer about what a product can do while communicating the feelings they’ll enjoy once they’ve made the purchase.

Takeaways

  • Solution selling focuses on diagnosing your lead’s problem and offering features that address this
  • Value selling appeals to the feelings of a customer: the struggle they feel now, versus the ease they’ll find after investing in you
  • Given its origins in the 1980s, many have called solution selling outdated, while value selling drives customer happiness and financial and emotional investment
  • Now try a combination of value and insight selling in a strategy that educates a customer on a rapidly developing market and communicates the benefits they’ll feel thanks to their purchase

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