Guided selling – What is it?

Guided Selling assists sales persons through step by step questions and sales selections to offer the product and service combination that best matches customer needs. By nature guided selling is customer-oriented, not product-oriented.

During the past few years, a new concept called Guided Selling has become more and more common in CPQ markets. The concept is still relatively new so it does not have a stabilized definition yet. Thus it is used quite freely to describe different things depending on the context. However, usually the concept is used to refer to some action in which the customer is steered or guided in the process of purchasing products or services with the help of a digital tool. It is not the intention of this text to try to define the concept of guided selling. Instead, this text attempts to invoke thoughts in the reader’s mind about what guided selling could mean in one’s business.

At its simplest form, guided selling can be about the specification of customer needs as well as responding to them. Guided selling system may attempt to find out the needs and requirements of the customer. It may do so by asking customer a set of questions, simple enough for an expert of the customer’s business to understand. The system may also offer the customer products and services which fulfill the needs that the customer has described. This is the way in which many of the current guided selling systems work, some of them being developed by Wapice.

Other kinds of functionalities aiming at easing the customer’s decision making can be included in these solutions as well. An example of such a functionality is a shopping cart into which the customer may collect several products at once, and then compare them with each other. In order to ease the comparison, the system may present calculations of the expected benefits and product life cycle costs. Furthermore, the calculations can be done by using customer’s business information already gathered in the beginning of the process.

The questions that the guided selling system presents to the customer are preferably such that the answers describe the nature of the customer’s business, instead of the features of the products or services being purchased. In this way, the supplier and the customer speak the same language – that is the language of the customer. Therefore, the customer doesn’t need to be an expert of the supplier’s products, but it is enough to be an expert of his or her own business. This does, however, place some specific requirements on the supplier’s products and services: they should be capable of varying according to the customer needs. For example, with a modular product structure, some modules should be linked to such factors as the customer’s key performance indicators.

On the other hand, the concept of guided selling can go much further upstream in the customer’s purchasing process. As an example, guided selling could signify the means with which the potential customer could be directed to the company’s website. It could also refer to attempts to invoke ideas how customer could develop his or her business by utilizing the supplier’s products and services. Thus, not all means of guided selling need to refer to configurators.

Whatever is meant by guided selling in different situations, there is always the same underlying thought at its core: the supplier should try to make purchasing as easy as possible for the customer. At its best, the guided selling solution both automates the supplier’s process as well as improves the service that the customer is receiving.

Wapice has developed a guided selling guidebook together with Tampere University of Technology as part of Devenio research project. Take a look at the guidebook here (only in Finnish).