What Is Solution Selling?

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  • Written By: Mark Wollacott
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2019
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Solution selling is a sales theory. Instead of direct product promotions, solution selling advocates the focusing of resources on a customer’s needs and problems. Once the problem has been identified, the product can be tailored and advertised as a solution to it. The theory is based on the idea of products solving solutions rather than just being something desired. The overall aim of sales, to make a profit, is not changed.

The idea of solution selling was first developed by Frank Watts in the 1970s. He did not trial it out in a corporate scenario until the early 1980s when he worked with Xerox. In 1983, a former Xerox worker, Mike Bosworth, set up a company in order to promote the idea. Like many theories of sales and business management, it is promoted and sold in several forms such as books and training courses.

In addition to being sold in this format, solution selling has been used by various companies since the mid-1980s to adjust their sales strategies. Prior to this, products were advertized for their functions in the hope a customer would self-identify the problem the product would solve. Instead of this, solution selling advocated a number of newer methods to provide both the problem and the solution.


The first state of selling solutions is to investigate the customer’s needs. This means surveys and feedback from existing customers. By understanding what customers want, the company is able to better tailor its products towards providing true solutions that generate direct results.

While need diagnosis works for individual or family products, prospecting is used to generate greater sales with high-powered businesses and individuals. The idea of prospecting works in tandem with the idea of prospecting for precious minerals. The prospector makes contact with well-targeted contacts just as a gold-digger would target specific rivers and mountains.

Customer care and follow-up, plus establishing product value, are important parts of developing long-term brand value and customer loyalty. This is the post-sell version of problem diagnosis. The company examines not only changing problems, but how to change its product to provide an even better solution.

Solution selling has been criticized as being a catch-all term for product placement. Such criticism has occurred because a number of companies advertize their products as solutions without going through the numerous phases of good customer care and relations. Bosworth has also stated that the training schemes he devised with the program mostly improved the top sales staff of a company and had negligible effect on worst performers. This led him and others to the conclusion that good sales is mostly intuition.


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