Concept Selling: What is it and How to do it Right?

Keerthana Selvakumar
min read
October 12, 2023

You clearly instruct your sales executives to sell your solution rather than product features. They nod along, but when you get on a call with them, they start listing out the features. Let's jump to your sales reps' thoughts for a moment. 

'I did prepare a pitch for communicating the solution. Why am I even listing down the features now?' Or 'Is this not solution selling?' 

This happens because, in most cases, you need to be more clearly aware of selling the solution because you're unaware of the concept around the solution. But what if a sales methodology inspires sales reps to sell the solution?

Yes, there is! Say hello to ‘Concept Selling.’

What Is Concept Selling?

Concept selling is a sales methodology built on the idea that customers buy the concept of the solution rather than the solution itself. In other words, what drives customers towards a sale is not the bells and whistles of your product but the difference your product will make in their day-to-day lives.

For example, people don’t always buy luxurious designer items for their features or benefits but for how they make them feel. And the scene is no different in the B2B space. What makes buyers put pen to paper is their desire to achieve results or solve pain points.

Quick Fact! 💡 Concept selling was conceived by Robert Miller and Stephen Heiman as a superior approach for securing high-value and intricate deals prevalent in enterprise sales. This technique is especially useful when dealing with multiple decision-makers.

Concept selling works because every buyer has their own reason to buy a product. In most cases, these reasons differ from those the sales representatives assume or use while marketing a product. This is why concept selling works on these thumb rules:

  1. The sales reps MUST allow the time and effort required to understand the potential customers and only then position the product 
  2. Sellers cannot skip - Research, questioning, listening, and personalization 

Also check out complete guide to B2B inside sales

Why Concept Selling Is A Powerful Way to Sell

Concept selling is hands down one of the sales methodologies you should switch to right now and start trying. It has proved itself with a few powerful ways to sell that lead to very impactful benefits. Here are a few key benefits that make concept selling a powerful way to sell:

Concept selling offers several benefits for businesses, including increased sales, improved customer relationships, and innovation.

Better Conversion Rates 

Today's buyers are faced with a plethora of options, inundated with an overwhelming amount of information, leaving them paralyzed and unable to make a decision. Here is where concept selling comes in to save the day. With a concept selling approach, sales representatives can overcome the second most significant obstacle to closing a deal - not fully understanding a customer and their specific requirements.

Rather than bombarding potential clients with a slew of facts and figures, concept selling requires reps to delve into the desires of their prospects and present their product as the solution to their needs. The logic is simple because it involves selling an idea or a concept rather than just statistical evidence or proven outcomes. When you offer this to clients, buyers feel relieved that they have found the solution that will change their life.

Customer-Focused Interactions 

This is a fun fact - two-thirds of sellers claim that they prioritize potential customers. Nah! But only a small percentage of buyers, about 23%, agree with this statement. How can we solve this discrepancy? Simple! Implement concept selling as a sales strategy. It works better because sales representatives are compelled to allocate their time more effectively to potential customers and focus on putting their needs first.

How so?

The concept selling process revolves around personalization, which is crucial to effectively selling the concept. A generic sales pitch is no longer sufficient and sales representatives must personalize every interaction with potential buyers.

The key here is establishing strong relationships with buyers, which may require more time and effort. But this is a positive attribute of this methodology. Building relationships is typically an area where sales reps excel, making this approach an ideal fit for most sales teams.

Enduring Relationships

With concept selling, buyers are no longer just names to sales representatives but human beings with real problems that you genuinely care about. This approach turns reps into attentive listeners who serve as trusted consultants, which is exactly the type of relationship that modern buyers expect. In fact, according to a recent study, 88% of buyers agree that the salespeople they do business with are "trusted advisors."

By positioning themselves as trusted advisors, sales reps are more likely to close deals and establish long-lasting relationships with clients. This means you’re set up for continued sales success with the same client for years to come.

Recommended: Guide to Product led sales

Is Concept Selling Right for Your Business?

Now, you would have agreed that concept selling is a powerful tool for your sales strategies. But is it right for your business? 

Alt text: Concept selling is particularly effective in B2B sales, where businesses are selling to other businesses rather than individual consumers.

Services vs. Products

While concept selling can be used to sell both products and services, it is particularly effective for selling services and other abstractions. This is because it can be challenging to describe intangible offerings in a way that resonates with potential customers.

B2B vs. B2C

Concept selling is more commonly used by B2B businesses as they tend to have longer decision cycles and focus on building strong customer relationships. On the other hand, B2C businesses typically operate faster and may not need to invest as much effort in conceptl selling to reach a wider audience.

Buying Cycles and Customer Lifetime Value

Concept selling is most effective when building positive, long-term customer relationships that will yield value over time. If your business has a low customer lifetime value or short buying cycles, investing in concept selling may not be worth the extra effort.

Alright! We can feel your vigorous nod on how concept selling definitely fits right for your business. We’ll learn more about how to master concept selling in the sections below. 

5 Concept Selling Strategies

We’ve narrowed down 5 concept selling strategies that can help you effectively sell your product or service by focusing on selling the underlying concept or idea:

There are several effective concept selling strategies that businesses can use to promote new products or ideas. The image shows a list of five strategies.

Emphasizing the Concept, Not the Product

In concept selling, the focus is on the underlying concept of the product or service rather than the product itself. For example, a mobile phone is not just a piece of gadget but a tool that simplifies the process of communicating with your family and friends. By emphasizing the concept, salespeople can better connect with customers and differentiate themselves from competitors.

Two Simultaneous Processes

In addition to the sales process, concept selling recognizes the importance of the buying process. It's essential to understand and follow both of these processes in order to build a strong relationship with the customer.

A "Win-Win" Mentality

Concept selling prioritizes a "win-win" approach to sales, recognizing that both the seller and the buyer have motivations and interests. The goal is to find a solution that works for everyone.

Rejecting "One Size Fits All"

Concept selling rejects the idea of a "one size fits all" solution. Even a static product can mean different things to different people, and understanding the customer's subjective experience is crucial for tailoring the approach.

A Simple, Repeatable Process

To maximize efficiency, it's important to establish a simple, repeatable process for reaching out to prospects, conducting research, and making the pitch. This process should be documented and practiced consistently across the team.

Wait! We have one more bonus strategy for you. 

BONUS STRATEGY - Ask the Right Questions! 

Asking questions is an important strategy in concept selling because it helps you understand the customer's needs, preferences, and pain points. By asking questions, you can tailor the message to your customer's specific situation and provide a more likely solution to meet their needs. You also establish a relationship of trust and make the customer more receptive to your message. It helps salespeople like you anticipate and overcomes objections that the customer might have with the product or service. 

Types of Concept Selling Questions  

Let’s discuss questions that play a huge part in concept selling and eventually closing the deal. Here are some types of concept selling questions that you can use to sell your product or service by focusing on the underlying concept or idea:

The various types of concept selling questions

Open-Ended Questions

These questions encourage the customer to provide more detailed and descriptive answers. They can be used to explore the customer's needs, pain points, and goals. 

Example - "Can you tell me more about what you hope to achieve with our product?"

Solution-Focused Questions

Using solution-focused questions focuses on how your product or service can solve the customer's problem or meet their needs. They can be used to illustrate the benefits of your concept. 

Example - "What’s the biggest challenge you’re hoping to solve with our product?"

Hypothetical Questions

Ask your customer to imagine a scenario where they have already adopted your product or service. They can be used to help the customer visualize the benefits of your concept. 

Example - "Wouldn’t you want to save X hours with (our product) in the next 6 months?”

Comparison Questions

Ask questions to compare your product or service to other products or services in the market. They can be used to highlight the unique features and benefits of your concept. 

Example - "While (Competitor X) offers a similar solution, do they solve it to the extent that we do?"

Follow-Up Questions

These questions build on the customer's previous answers and help you gather more information. They can be used to show that you are listening and to demonstrate your interest in the customer's needs. 

Example - "You mentioned that you are struggling with X. Can you tell me more about how that impacts your business?"

Confirmation Questions

Reps should confirm the information they have learned or researched.

Example - “From what you’ve told me, looks like X is the biggest painpoint for your business right now. Is that right?”

New Information Questions

To learn what makes the buyer tick and what pain points they suffer, reps should ask discovery questions.

Example - “What solutions have you tried so far? Who will be the right person to talk to to move our conversation forward?”

Attitude Questions

Reps should ask attitude questions to understand the buyer's perspective and what they stand to gain from your solution.

Example - “Are you open to new solutions? How quickly can you execute a new solution? What's that biggest roadblock that’s stopping you from moving forward?”

Commitment Questions

To close the sale, reps need to get commitment from the prospect.

Example - “What is this solution worth to you? What's your deadline for finding a solution? Who else do I need to speak to about this problem?”

Basic Issue Questions

Reps should also ask questions to determine the prospect's objections.

Example - “How much money are you spending trying to solve this issue? What would stop you from signing a deal today?”

8 Tips to Make Concept Selling Work for You

Now that you are ready to adopt concept selling, there are some effective tips you can implement to enhance your results:

Tips to make concept selling work for your business

Be Prepared

Take your prospects seriously and get to know them before meeting with them. Learn about their background, role, and company to understand their buying process and find a mutually beneficial solution.

Example - On average, successful salespeople dedicate approximately six hours per week to research their potential clients. Research on what industry your client fits in, what are their biggest pain points at the moment, check if they are already using any tool, etc. Say you want to talk to a client to convince about interactive product demos, spend a good amount of time researching about what they would need specifically in interactive demos and prepare simple questions for the discovery call. 

Listen Actively

Rather than making it a one-way conversation filled with your questions, inculcate the habit of listening actively. Take the time to understand who they are and what they need.

Example - To effectively communicate with prospects, sales professionals must prioritize active listening over responding. This entails reducing their talking time and focusing on understanding the prospect's needs. Listen closely on why they are not open towards product demos, or video tutorials or other demo platforms. Understand which is their biggest fear factor now by listening carefully. 

It is important to understand what customers want and not sell what we want when it comes to Concept selling. This image shows the quote shared by Craig Davis. 

Address Objections

Anticipate and address potential objections that the customer may have about your concept. 

Example - if the customer is concerned about the cost, be prepared to show them how the benefits of your concept outweigh the cost over time. This can help build trust and credibility with the customer.

Make It Personal And Tap Into Emotions

Build relationships with your prospects and earn their trust by getting to know them. Consider incorporating emotional appeals into your pitch. Remember that it's not just about selling a product - it's also about building a relationship. Treat your customers as long-term partners and keep their best interests in mind.

Example - “Hey! I just read your article in X edition. Loved your thoughts on the company culture and how it molds young talent. Also, congrats on your company receiving the recent Y certification. Kudos to your entire team!”

Lead The Meeting And Use Time Wisely

Take control of the conversation by doing your research and planning the meeting in advance. Guide the narrative and flow of the discussion without interrupting others. Communicate clearly and concisely to make the most of your meetings and use your downtime productively.

Example - Time your demo sessions and ensure you spend 9 minutes or less presenting. This works better with the attention span of your clients and the ability to keep the conversation engaging. 

Measure Everything

Track your results and analyze your performance to identify areas for improvement and reinforce strengths. Find ways to make intangible features measurable and tangible such as by highlighting bottom-line cost savings or emphasizing the emotional impact of your product or service.

Example - Use interactive demos platforms or sales demo platforms to get analytics, feedback and user behavior understanding of your product demos. 

Tell A Story

Come on. Sales reps are storytellers in disguise. And pick one person in the world who does not love stories. So use storytelling to help the customer visualize how your concept can be applied in their specific situation.

According to Harvard, stories work well because they create a sense of connection and also make your concept more memorable.

Example - “Hey! We can see that your candidates A and B, have abandoned the recruitment process due to a lack of response. Isn’t it frustrating not to know why this happens? This takes us back to our client X who had a similar situation. Oh yes! Their emails were not getting through. Imagine the candidates who were disappointed with no response, but the recruiter had done her job already. We swooped right in, unrooted this cause, and fixed it quickly. It was a delight to see a win-win situation for the recruiter and the candidates with product A.”

It is important to develop the skill of storytelling to master concept selling. This image shows the quote shared by Beth Comstock. 

Use Visual Aids

Visual aids such as diagrams, charts, or videos can help illustrate your concept and make it easier for the customer to understand. This can be particularly effective if you sell a complex or technical product or service.

Example - Show your product in action with interactive product demos and let your customers get a real-time experience of how your product works. This will create a better impact than you explaining about it through text, word of mouth, or tutorials. 

Like how Productboard uses Storylane to show their product in action:

Wrapping Up 

The heart of purchasing decisions lies in the concepts that buyers create rather than in facts, data, or product superiority. Concept selling taps into this understanding by using a consultative approach to showcase your product in the most favorable light possible.

But it might be challenging to switch to a new sales approach suddenly. With the right tools in place and consistent monitoring of your team's performance when adopting concept selling, you can make concept selling your best ally. You can also try out an interactive product demo platform that provides a convenient way to track the team's progress in the demos and identify opportunities for improvement. 

Moreover, with our readymade interactive content sheet, you can keep the sale moving forward, making concept selling a powerful tool for your team!

"Previously, there was scope for error and we’ve gone from a process that could be time consuming and painful to a process that’s super quick."
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"Previously, there was scope for error and we’ve gone from a process that could be time consuming and painful to a process that’s super quick."

"Previously, there was scope for error and we’ve gone from a process that could be time consuming and painful to a process that’s super quick."


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