Applying a Solution Mentality Where You’d Least Expect It

Posted on by Greg Cholmondeley | No Comments »

Selling vs SolvingIt is really, really easy to fall into the trap of building and selling “things.” These things could be software programs, printers, binders, business cards, brochures, or even conferences. It seems to be human nature to start by seeing what you can build and to then try to sell (which I translate to mean justify) rather than identifying a problem and then helping people solve it with the tools, skills, experience and technologies you have at your disposal.

The biggest challenge with this is NOT in how to do it. It’s simply getting into the solution mindset and applying that approach without sounding like corporate-speak from a Dilbert cartoon. This approach is, however, possible to do for just about anything that isn’t too simple or commonplace. It really is. Don’t believe me? Read on and watch this short video.

Throughout my career I’ve been an engineer, a solution architect, a product planner and a marketing manager so let me demonstrate the solution concept with something that probably sounds just about as far away from a solution as you can get: A conference track.

We have an annual conference, AppForum, and I have responsibility for the Workflow Productivity track. This conference has a focus: “The best practices conference for selling, implementing and producing digital printing and marketing solutions.” And, it is a physical conference (not online) taking place in Las Vegas, February 9-11.

I could take the approach of considering the conference to be our product and trying to convince people to come (sell it). The solution approach, however, does not consider the conference as a product, but rather as our platform or toolset for building solutions (much the way a printer has digital presses, a bindery, design skills, etc.). Look at what happens when I take this approach and then use these tools to try to address an industry problem with the productivity track.

Major Problem: Print and marketing services operations can generally get their work out on schedule, but the amount of effort and labor it takes cuts into their profitability.

Issues faced by Owners, Operations Managers & Prepress Managers relating to this problem:

  • They don’t know the best workflow management and automation practices in the industry
  • They don’t understand “solutions” beyond what they learn from sales reps and the web
  • They don’t really know how to implement such solutions or what to effort is required
  • They don’t get a chance to question and discuss ideas with their peers or with leading experts

Solution: To develop the productivity track as a solution, I started with that problem and those issues, and worked with industry experts to develop a course which addresses them.

  • The instructors we’ve lined up are charged with running interactive workshop sessions rather than just presentations.
  • These sessions are 1 ½ to 3 hours long to provide sufficient depth to help teach students how to solve these problems rather than just gloss over some clever ideas.
  • The topics are all centered on showing how to address the issues.
  • And the session leaders we’ve lined up are people you would typically have difficulty meeting with: General Managers, Vice Presidents, Directors of Sales & Marketing, etc.

So, take a look at the video I created overviewing the productivity track and think about how this is a solution. Perhaps we would’ve been lucky and arrived here with a “product-driven” approach, but I think that, by trying to solve problems rather than sell products, we’ve come up with something of real value.

If I can apply this concept to a conference track … you should be able to apply it to reshape your business to a solutions business where you understand what your customers are trying to do with what you produce and you find ways to help them achieve their goals through the services you provide.

I hope to see you at AppForum and, besides the terrific formal sessions we’ve planned, I’d love to discuss topics like this with you during our various networking times. Be sure to look me up while you’re there.

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