February 29, 2008

Solving the Puzzle of Solutions

We’ve talked about addressing the customer’s needs and the outcomes they seek as being the first two steps in delivering a persuasive message. Now it’s time to talk about the part you probably find most interesting—your solution.

But how do you do that without sounding self-serving? How do you recommend yourself, your products, and your services without losing the client-centered tone you’ve established so far?

That’s the puzzle of solutions, and solving it is our topic this time.

The heart of your proposal is, of course, your solution. If you have first whetted the client’s appetite for it by focusing on their needs and potential outcomes, your client will be eager to hear it. However, this is the stumbling point for many proposals.

The dilemma is when the solution’s presentation lapses into technical details and jargon, focuses on details rather impacts, and then comes across as self-centered because it fails to connect back to either needs or outcomes. The client still wants to know why you’re recommending this approach or this product. What makes this the right way to go? How does it solve the key problems? Why is it the best way to deliver the results the client seeks?

To solve the solution puzzle, write from the top down. Your first sentence should focus on a general statement of what you are recommending to solve the client’s problem. The next sentence or two should explain the recommendation in functional terms. What will your solution do for the client? How will it work? Then make sure you tie this with the client’s specific needs by:

· Explaining what component(s) of your solution are intended to address each need

· What positive impact each aspect of the solution will deliver

· Cite a brief bit of proof—a reference, an award, test data, or some other form of objective validation that substantiates your claim

Here’s a sample solution statement:

The InVicta IronClad model 2100 Access Control Head End Hardware and Software will be the heart of the system for your offices in Pittsburgh. The panel will connect to the new software head end located within your facility. The system will be designed for easy access into your existing network if you decide to connect remote sites to your location. In the initial design, we have assumed that the host computer will be located in the Security Console. As part of this project, we will install access control panels, card readers, and alarm contacts for granting or denying access into the existing three doors in your office. We will additionally install Card Readers on the existing sliding gates and turnstiles. Each of the access points will have a card reader and contact for access into the facility as well as door status. The purpose of the system is to determine who is allowed into the facility at any given time and to keep accurate records of all access or alarm activity.

Blah, blah, blah… Not very persuasive, interesting, or clear, is it?

Here’s the same solution statement rewritten using the format outlined above:

To address your need for improved physical security in the office environment at your corporate headquarters in Pittsburgh, we recommend an electronic security system that limits access to authorized personnel only. The access system prevents everyone from entering your offices unless they first swipe an electronic ID badge through an automated card reader. We recommend the InVicta IronClad model 2100 Access Control system, which includes all required hardware and software. At the heart of the system, the InVicta uses a comprehensive control panel, known as the “head end” hardware, and a software package that controls all access points, reads the ID cards, checks the database, and provides constant monitoring around the clock. We recommend this system because it matches your specific needs:

· Budgetary compliance: The total price for the InVicta system is more than $20,000 below the budget you have established. Other systems using biometric data rather than card readers are much more costly without providing any more security. The InVicta’s lower price will free up funds to cover installation and training, assuring a smooth roll-out. For example, we installed an InVicta system for a large automobile dealership and the entire package, including all support services, was less than the hardware costs alone for competitive models.

· Minimal disruption to workflow: Your employees will find the ID card system easy to learn and use. As they quickly accept the system, you will benefit by sustaining your normal working patterns thus eliminating any impact on productivity. To indicate how easy this system is to learn, consider this: we installed a new access control system at a major Pittsburgh bank over a three-day weekend. When people arrived at work on Tuesday morning, management greeted them in the lobby, gave them their new ID cards, and taught them how to swipe the card reader for entry. From that day forward, the bank experienced only two access control problems out of more than 250,000 uses of the system.

· So on and so forth…

You can see which solution presentation is designed to communicate to the client’s interests and which is just a feature dump.

If you’d like help in rewriting your solutions statements, please give us a call. We’ve solved the solution puzzle for hundreds of companies around the world and we’re eager to help you put the pieces of your solutions together.

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