Purpose: This research investigates how to manage and organize existing employees when launching a solution sales strategy, specifically addressing whether it is possible to migrate existing sales representatives active in product sales to solution sales, and whether it is possible to combine the roles.
Methodology/approach: A case-based approach was applied to a multinational firm, engaged in business-to-business sales that simultaneously launched a solution sales strategy in 17 countries. In-depth interviews with 29 managers and sales representatives were performed to inductively identify why some countries succeeded in the launch, while others did not.
Findings: Because of fundamental differences in approach between solution and product sales, those countries where the solutions and product businesses were separated performed better. The difference in required capabilities and mindset meant that migrating sales representatives from product to solution sales is problematic.
Research implications: This research offers evidence of differences in mindset and approach between different marketing and sales strategies, extending the conclusions to how these differences affect the possibility of migrating existing sales representatives when launching a new selling strategy. Whether to separate service and product sales has been debated. The present results indicate that separating the current product business from the new solution business facilitates the successful implementation of the new strategy. In the case company, the solutions represent a mixture of product and services, suggesting that the problem is not the difference between products and services, but rather different selling strategies and approaches that require different capabilities.
Practical implications: When launching a solution sales strategy, the solution business should be separated from the current product business at both the organizational and personnel levels. Solution sales necessitates a particular approach and capabilities, making it unadvisable to transfer sales representatives and managers to the new solution business based solely on previous product sales success. Instead, a new skill profile must be developed taking account of the requirements of a demand-driven solution strategy.
Originality/value/contribution: Consensus is lacking as to whether to separate product and service businesses. This article extends the debate to the field of solution sales, demonstrating that separation is needed to succeed in launching a solution sales strategy. Furthermore, this research extends our knowledge of the difference in approaches between different selling strategies, covering the possibility of successfully migrating existing sales representatives to a different selling strategy.
Routledge, 2016. Vol. 23, no 3, 207-219 p.
existing sales personnel, sales force management, solution selling strategies, strategy implementation, industrial marketing, business marketing