Don't Sell the Pieces - Sell the System

How I Confused the Buyer

When I began selling Sage MAS 90 and MAS 200 ERP software, one of my first prospects was Bill. I was excited about the power of each module. I thought Bill should know and appreciate that power. For example, the General Ledger module was the first one to be endorsed by the American Institute of CPAs. Because if its audit trails, it was the first off-the-shelf G/L software to meet their Generally Accepted Accounting Practices (GAAP).

Then, I would move to the Accounts Receivable module. To Bill, it was a separate conversation. One by one, I would move to the Sales Order, Inventory, Accounts Payable and Purchase Order modules.

It was very educational...if only I could help Bill stay awake. He was expressionless. Any moment now, he was going to fall completely asleep and go face-down into his coffee cup.

The Turning Point

I cleared my throat. In a loud voice, I asked, "Bill, can I refill your coffee?"

Bill shook himself back to life. He said, "Mike, this MAS 90 stuff sounds really powerful, but it seems way too complicated. I just remembered that I have an appointment. I have to leave now. I think I'll look for something that's easier to understand and buy."

I responded this way: "Bill, I apologize for not telling you earlier that they come out of the box ready to plug in and go to work for you. Think of all the modules working together as one system, to solve the problem you said was most pressing: getting sales, purchasing and inventory control to play nice together.  Shall we dispense with the separate modules and discuss a single, integrated system?

Bill replied, "Of course. I thought you knew that."

Ten minutes later, I closed the sale. 

Sage MAS 90 and MAS 200 had 22 modules at that time. I never discussed them individually again. I only offered systems, as solutions to business problems. Sage was learning the same lesson. They began offering the Distribution Solution, the Manufacturing Solution, the Financial Reporting Solution, and others.

The Lesson We Can All Learn

IBM was fond of saying, "The System is the Solution." Even if you offer a massive catalog of products and services, don't sell them individually. Combine your products and services, and sell the system. That's the solution the buyer wants to hear about.

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