Intriguingly, in spite of job titles that include Solutions Consultant, Solutions Architect, and Solutions Engineer, there is little discussion of the associated skill of solutioning and its impact on a broad range of other presales activities.
[Note – if you have a product-led offering with no substantive options, ignore the balance of this post… However, if you have complex, multi-module offerings or multiple offerings, then a closer examination of solutioning could be wise!]
Determining what solution to propose to a prospect can include a range of factors – and resulting impacts. Let’s explore a few!
Initial product footprint:
Organizations with long implementation and time-to-value timelines (e.g., ERP systems) often work to establish the broadest possible initial footprint with their customers. Solutioning to achieve this requires know-how and experience in doing discovery and presenting demos, as well as generating and presenting proposals and corresponding value analyses.
Land and Expand:
Conversely, software that deploys and returns value rapidly suggests establishing a more focused beachhead, followed by pursuing expansion opportunities as initial value realization events are achieved.
Prospect implementation culture and strategy:
Understanding our prospects’ preferred implementation strategy also impacts solutioning, as we need to incorporate these into the equation. Prospects may prefer all-at-once vs. staged rollouts. Understanding where prospects sit on the Technology Adoption Curve may also impact solutioning, and those with “fast-follower” strategies represent another dimension.
Licensing and pricing models can drive solutioning in unanticipated ways. For example, traditional volume-based discounting may penalize smaller players who wish to purchase a broad range of offerings, as these players may not be able to afford the breadth of products they want/need. In response to this exact situation, I pioneered what became known as “Cohan’s Drug Dealer” licensing model – it was very successful and enabled building a strong customer base in an SMB segment!
Your solutioning strategy will directly impact your discovery methods. Vendors pursuing large initial product footprints will need to invest (much) more in discovery breadth and depth, compared to narrower beachhead scenarios.
Similarly, solutions that are more tightly focused typically require crisper, shorter demos than large, complex, multi-component offerings. Vendors whose demos span an hour are often amazed that other vendors’ demos could take days – and vice versa!
Additionally, Vision Generation Demos similarly can range from a few minutes for simpler offerings to broader excursions of an hour or more – these longer Vision Generation scenarios are often key components of Executive Briefing Center sessions.
POCs and related:
Post-demo forms of proof, including POCs, guided workshops, POVs and related evaluations are also impacted (considerably!) by the solutions that you propose. Clearly, the larger the footprint and complexity, the greater the effort of proof. Organizations seeing high POC/POV rates with corresponding costs may want to revisit their solution strategy or be clear (at least internally) on the real costs of execution.
The more complex the solution, the more challenging the associated handoffs to customer success and account management. Churn experienced with a product-led offering should be perceived as very different from significant churn with large-footprint customers!
What are your solutioning strategies and challenges?