INVENT: Creating the Buyer’s Solution

INVENT is the ‘I’ in the DECIDE sequence. First, let’s just re-cap on how we got here. You DISCOVER buyers and then ENGAGE with them to build trust and to understand them and their perceptions of value. You’re then able to COLLABORATE with them to explore their needs and Value Gaps.

When you understand a Buyer’s Value Gaps, then you’re ready to move to INVENT, which is the process of exploring potential Sources of Value to close those Gaps. It’s called INVENT because you are going to be co-inventing with the Buyer his solution.

INVENT is arguably the most critical step of DECIDE. It’s one that traditional selling ignores entirely and that a seller operating on instinct will invariably overlook. That’s because it’s not obvious. Having collaborated to understand a buyer’s needs, our instinct is to slip into solution mode and propose a product or service to fix the problem. Makes sense, right? Well No!

If that is your instinct…

When you start suggesting that ‘I’ or ‘we’ can address a buyer’s needs, two (bad) things happen.

  1. You’re now in selling mode and talking about yourself (your products). That’s self-interest and trust quickly heads downhill. The buyer will immediately be on guard, as she feels you’re now trying to sell her something, rather than helping her to solve her problem.
  2. You’re now talking products rather than solutions. Remember our discussion on value. Only a buyer can call something a solution not you, she’s the sole arbiter.

In addition, as soon as you mention products you’re on a slippery slope that will lead you to having to talk price when you have no idea what the price should be.

So, forget about products and thus prices. Instead say to yourself ‘I have no idea what the solution looks like’ and stay in that frame of mind until you’ve completed the INVENT stage, which will be when the buyer, not you, says ‘yes, that is the solution’.

Exploring Sources of Value

So let’s look at how you do INVENT. You’re going to be matching Value Gaps to Potential Sources of Value. And a Value Sheet is a really useful tool to help you do that. When you’ve identified the Value Gaps, your Value Sheet will look something like this. The first two columns are complete and we’re now going to work on the third column.

Ideally you should do this with the buyer. Sit alongside him with the Value Sheet in front of you and work though it together. In the next lesson, I’ll cover in detail how to conduct that conversation. Before that though, you need to have a good understanding of what you’re looking to accomplish.

First, you’ll confirm the buyer’s Value Gaps with him. You most likely arrived at those in the previous session. Ensure they’re the same or make changes as necessary. You then get agreement to move on to exploring possible approaches to close the Gaps.

Now during this conversation, you’ll be sorely tempted to mention your product or service, however this conversation just like all the others so far, should be entirely in buyer or generic language. As I mentioned earlier your instinct will be to mention your products. It’s just habit. You need to consciously exercise self-control to avoid that.

By all means have a product our service in the back of your head, simply refer to it by generic description, not by name.

So for example:

Value Gap (the Need) Sources of Value (possible Solution)
Reduce capital tied up in stock Vendor with warehouse close by
Easier changing of Attachments Flexible fastening system
Remove red wine stains Oxygenated stain dissolver


Invention begins with creativity. Your role is to act as a catalyst, facilitating the creative process, enabling the buyer to explore and discover options in addressing her needs and the potential value of those. Of course, to equip yourself to do that, you should have gone through your Value Sheet and come up with some ideas prior to meeting with the buyer.

Sources of Value

In doing INVENT, you’re not creating value, remember you can’t do that. Value is received not given. What you are doing is looking for Sources of Value, which are things that can be used to create the Buyer’s solution.

Be careful to not consider only those things that you or your company might be a source of. This is the buyer’s solution you’re inventing so it’s quite likely that you’ll come up with some needs and/or approaches that aren’t a fit for your product/service suite. However, they should be relevant to you, as your focus is helping the buyer. As her Trusted Advisor, it’s quite appropriate that you help her explore solutions that are outside your area of competence e.g. by suggesting things you don’t do, referring her to colleagues in other organizations and so on. Your objective is to be of value.

Of course, there’s no certainty you’ll succeed in inventing a solution that you might eventually be able to supply. For now, you’re simply exploring options. If it turns out her needs are out of your ballpark and it’s obvious the eventual solution will have nothing in common with what your company does, then it may be prudent to exit gracefully. Ensuring of course to leave the door open for another time.

All of that said, you should have a sense as you go through the DECIDE steps of whether you may be a potential Source of Value, more so as you progress.

So in summary, INVENT is simply working cooperatively with buyers to help them invent their solutions to their problems.

Now, of course, for it to be a solution, the cost must be also right. For insights on how how to have that conversation, see How to Have Value Conversations and How to Not Have Price Discussions

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