Around this time last year, Harvard Busiess Review wrote an article; The End of Solution Sales. While the article states some on-point notes about changing sales methods and customers becoming more connected, a study by Shultz, M. and Doerr, J., What Sales Winners Do Differently, from the RAIN Group, feels the headline can be debated. According to them, relationship and solution sales is still alive and kicking. Here are five reasons why.

1. You still need to connect to the customer

“If you haven’t made a personal connection to your buyer, by actively listening to them, and relating to them on a personal level, it doesn’t matter what else you say and do,” notes Doerr, “they are not likely to go with you.”

Connecting is essential to getting your foot in the door. But it’s just the first step.

2. Understanding the buyer’s needs is important

Sellers still diagnose buyer’s pain and come up with solutions today, but Doerr says now they need to go beyond that. “Diagnosing needs is not as important anymore, but demonstrating an understanding of needs is.”

It’s like the metaphor where you go to your doctor to diagnose your painful finger, because you have no idea what’s wrong, explains Doerr. That analogy doesn’t hold today because with the Internet, the buyer comes in already really informed about their problem.

Instead of the doctor and patient relationship, what buyers are looking for today, is someone who already understands what they need, and is able to meet them on an even playing field.

3. Relating with buyers about their positive goals is critical

Instead of addressing the pain or affliction, Doerr says sellers need to talk to buyers about where they want to be when the pain is long gone.Solution sales was always saying, find the pain and provide a solution to relieve the pain,” he says, “and we say, that’s still relevant but it’s only half the story.”

“Find out what the customers goals are, what their dreams are, what their vision is, and if you can help them achieve that, you also can win an opportunity.”

4. The ability to convince is essential

After they connect with the buyers, salespeople must convince buyers of three things: that they can achieve maximum return, that the level of risk is acceptable, and that the seller is the best choice among all other options, says Doerr.

But you won’t be able to convince at all, if you haven’t established a relationship. “Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Relationships are still important.”

5. Only after you connect and convince, can you challenge

“The word ‘challenger’ connotes confrontation, and being in the face of the individual, but that can only work if you first build a relationship,” says Doerr. “Just think about it, who do you take advice from? Do you take advice from a stranger who comes by and says, ‘I think you should do this,’ or do you take advice from people you trust?”

“We wanted to make sure that people recognize that if you can connect, convince and collaborate,” says Doerr, “then you will develop the loyalty, develop the trust, and earn the right to be a challenger, and say to that potential client, ‘this is a good way to go, but I want to suggest that this is a better way’.”

Note: Content is based on a study by Shultz, M. and Doerr, J., What Sales Winners Do Differently, copyright 2013. RAIN Group.

To find out more about how to use these insights to radically change your sales behavior including insights from the RAIN Group, read the below ebook: The Guide to Winning Sales Every Time.