I recently had a great discussion with a top sales executive in which he said he was driving his account executives who cover the very largest accounts toward what he termed “architectural selling”. The best way to understand what this means is to put the term into perspective.
Application selling implies that sellers translate product features into functions that have value for customers. The copier salesperson goes beyond feeds and speeds to promote in-house publishing capabilities. Further up the evolutionary chain is solution selling. It drives sellers to mix and match applications into a recipe that helps solve a specific customer problem. Here, the copier salesperson suggests how document processing and storage functions actually help them copy less, consume less energy and take cost out of office operations. You solve a cost problem.
Architectural selling is the next step. It drives sellers to put their products and services into a much broader context for their customers. Instead of solving for specific business problems, the architectural seller looks for opportunities to change and improve entire customer business functions by creatively applying their products and services. Here, the copier salesperson suggests how a large investment in hardware, software and services can help clients improve the effectiveness and efficiency of how they create, store and distribute all forms of documentation, providing greater access to important, even critical information. Think about how this might apply to law or accounting firms.
Note the point about “large investment”; architectural selling implies high value add, high impact and high price point. As you can imagine, the role of the seller evolves from vendor, to consultant, to trusted advisor. Not all sellers can pull this off. And not all product lines lend themselves to architectural selling. But it sure seems like sales leaders ought to put some serious time into figuring out how their suite of products and services can be used to impact the very architecture of their customers’ businesses. The result: deeper customer loyalty and larger profits.