I had the pleasure of speaking with Mac McLoughlin this week. Mac was one of the original authors of Solution Selling, a widely used sales methodology. The Solution Selling method was sold to SPI, but Mac is actively involved in a group that offers training and support.
I called Mac and told him that I had been referred to him by a colleague. Mac recognized him at once “Jim Cary! He is a true professional.” I agreed, and was impressed that Mac remembered him and could put him into proper context.
We spoke for a while about a variety of sales related topics. I have recently begun research on sales systems dynamics, and have been interested in merging that research with more practical sales methodologies. Solution selling was established in 1991 and has established itself as one of the leading methods around.
Here were a couple of the points that jumped out at me from our conversation.
#1. He answered the phone. It shouldn’t come as a surprise when people that are “open for business” actually answer their phone, but it does.
#2. The customer’s buying process should drive the selling process not the other way around. He commented that in addition to Solution Selling, Huthwaite got that part right.
#3. A common sales process is a critical component of any systematic approach to improving sales across an organization.
#4. Research has shown a strong correlation between the quantity of sales interviews during a complex sale and the overall close rate. That is as expected. What is interesting is that there is also a strong correlation between the quantity of interviews and a reduction in the sales cycle! The sales interview process also serves to spread the knowledge within a customer’s organization.
#5. It is essential to summarize and “checkpoint” your progress with the customer and get their investment to move to the next stage in the process.
I explained that part of the research that I am working on is to use systems dynamics to create simulators to identify and model optimal processes for particular business strategies. He pushed the point that he did not personally believe that you can successfully “play Switzerland” and adopt multiple sales methodologies, rather that you should pick a single methodology and stick to it. As you would expect, Mac is a big proponent of Solution Selling. I confessed that I had not read through it in a lot longer time than I wanted to admit.
He also explained that their methods support different processes based on the size and complexity of a sales process. We agreed in the end that I would re-read Solution Selling and let him know how I thought it would fit into the system framework that I am working on.
A couple of other comments in closing. Mac asked me for my contact information and specifically asked me to thank Jim for referring me to him. I did both, adding my own thanks to Jim on top of Mac’s.