Don’t sell features and functions – sell Soluuutions!”  “Price?”  “Why should price matter?”  “We’re selling Soluuutions!’

You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it a million times again. “Don’t sell features and functions,” they tell you, “Sell solutions.”

The problem is that this phrase is nothing but a bunch of muddle-headed jargon.  I’m convinced that people endlessly repeat these ridiculous buzzwords because they’re tired of saying, “Consultative Selling.”

First, let’s state the obvious.  Buzzwords have meaning, but not beyond the blindingly obvious.

All selling is consultative.  If you aren’t consulting in some fashion with your customer, then you’re probably guilty of aggravated assault.  And if you’re not providing some kind of solution to a customer’s challenge or need – well, then you don’t really have a product to sell, do you?

The reality is, sales professionals rave continuously about Solution Selling because they are lazy, they are defensive, they are uninformed, or they are trying to sell a book called, “Solution Selling.”  Here’s a for-instance:

Company A is selling Turbo-Widget, and company B is hawking Blasto-Widget.  Turbo-Widget does everything that Blasto-Widget does.  In fact, it does twice as much as the competing product…and it does it all for less than half the price.

So what kind of “solution” are the sales people over at Blasto, Inc. providing?  Do they intend to “solve” the problem that their customers have too much money by wasting some of it?  Perhaps the “solution” is to cause their customers to work twice as hard to make up for the deficiencies of the Blasto product.  I think you get my point.

Let’s cut through the B.S. and describe what it is that customers actually want:

1. They want a product that actually performs the function that they need performed.  Lousy features and functions don’t lend themselves to effective use or increases in productivity.

2. They want a partner who will support their use of the product.  That means consistent and reliable customer support, a clear and convincing upgrade path (oh, no, more features!), and a company that understands their business.

3. They want company reps (from sales people to the CEO) to be trustworthy.

4. They need to know that you say what you mean, and that you’ll do what you say.They want to feel and intuit that all of the above is true – and they want proof that those things are true.

So at the end of the day, it’s all about trust.

On the Web, we look for products with dozens of 5-star references on Yelp.  Those references are a proxy for trust that allows us to purchase the product with confidence.

In our offices, we want to meet with sane, reasonable sales people who shoot straight and don’t act like hyperactive weirdos.  These are characteristics that anyone can acquire – but that too few attempt to master.

So is your sales staff sane, reasonable and trustworthy?  Or are you staffed with various versions of, “That Sales Guy??”  It can be a hard question to face – but it’s also one that you need to answer.