Approaching the Sale

Solution selling vs. insight selling. What’s right for your painting business?

As a contractor, an effective sales approach is as important in your arsenal of tools as a paint brush. Too often, however, contractors think of it as a pitch, and not much more. The fact of the matter is that identifying and employing the best sales approach can result in higher profitability and improved customer satisfaction.

These approaches are known as solution selling and insight selling, and each begins with listening to the customer.

Solution selling is an effective and proven approach to enhancing the sales process and improving both profitability and customer satisfaction. It centers around asking customers and prospects a series of questions designed to match the optimal product (solution) to their needs.

A relatively recent entry into the interaction between seller and buyer is called insight selling. This approach acknowledges that certain customers are extremely knowledgeable, informed and may already have arrived at the right solution for their needs. In other words, it is not necessary for you to ask them questions designed to pinpoint a solution.

In either case, having extensive product knowledge across the entire product line and being able to articulate specific product benefits, elevates you from salesperson to consultant.

For example, if a multi-family property manager says, “I have a lot of tough stains to cover.” Your initial go-to suggestion may be to apply a high-quality interior latex with good hiding capabilities. A more long-term, problem-solving approach would be to recommend an interior acrylic latex paint with both a stain blocker and primer in one. While this might be a higher cost solution, you will have demonstrated to your customer a preference for a long- term relationship over a short-term sale.

Solution Selling

There are three standard diagnostic questions in the solution selling playbook. Importantly, each is grounded in the fundamental principle of listening to the customer:

What more can you tell me about this project?
This question is intended to help you understand the state of the surface; the crew resources you’ll need; the project timetable; and any regulatory concerns.

What do you want to accomplish with your customer?
Now you are gaining goal-oriented knowledge regarding appearance and performance; customer needs; and business goals.

What challenges could you face in satisfying your customer?
You are trying to assess possible project pain points like application efficiency; labor shortages; tight deadlines; and weather challenges.

Insight Selling

Not all customers want to field a series of pre-formulated questions that don’t account for their unique needs. Insight selling is based on the premise that you must be prepared to offer customer insights and a thorough understanding of their market/project. You are positioning yourself as a subject matter expert, which is the beginning of the journey to build trust and a true advisory relationship – not merely transactional.

Let’s say a new home builder has entered your market for the first time and starts accepting bids from painting contractor firms. How will you differentiate your company from all the others? What compelling insights are you able to share with this new home builder that conveys your partnership value?

Customers today have access to a nearly unlimited amount of data and product information, product reviews and social media posts. What they may not have is a trusted consultant to help them navigate, understand and maximize the benefits of this information.


Whether your customer requires your help and guidance to create their solution or your insight to lead them to a potentially mutually beneficial solution, be prepared to take the sales approach that will lead to the best possible outcome for both you and your customer.