Co-Creation Critical To Selling Solutions


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For years, we’ve been trained, “Customers want solutions.” The best of us try to sell solutions, moving beyond just product features, functions, and benefits. To a large degree, we’ve trained our customers to expect this. They engage us looking for solutions, listen to our presentations, discuss them, and ultimately buy.

In reality, our solutions are just a component of the solution our customers are looking for. All of us live in complex adaptive systems. Both our own companies and our customers’ organizations represent a constantly changing and evolving set of interactions, shifting priorities, agendas, needs, systems, and processes. To be successful in achieving our goals in selling our solutions, we have to help the customer successfully implement the “whole solutions.”

Too often, we fail to do this, we focus on our part of the transaction, perhaps helping develop and implementation plan, but not going beyond that. But we are missing an opportunity!

The real opportunity to create value and differentiate ourselves is to go further–to focus on the solution from the customer’s point of view. To look not just at the part we supply but working with the customer to align all the moving parts in implementing the change, moving forward and getting the results.

Customer tend to put greater value on things that are co-created. It makes sense–they have greater ownership of the change, the elements of the solution, and the outcomes. We have the opportunity to differentiate ourselves by co-creating the total solution with the customer.

What are you doing to help the customer address the entire solution?

Are you maximizing the customer engagement in co-creating the solution?

Are you maximizing the value you provide, through your leadership in working with the customer?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


  1. Dave: this makes sense. Prospects frequently say “can you put together a proposal and send it off to me.” Our patterned response is “sure!” –much in the way we say “fine” after being asked “how are you?”

    But we miss an opportunity, and so does our prospect. If we refrain from saying “sure!”, and instead ask “In order for me (us) to provide the best choice for you, what might your ideal solution include?” (or similar).

    Forget Sales Tips and Tricks–this isn’t intended as gimmicky. When done right, it takes effort and much back and forth dialog. But the outcomes are much better, all the way around.

  2. Andy, you are absolutely on target. Getting the customer involved in defining and designing the solution does a number of things.

    It probably creates a better solution than just sending off a proposal.

    It gets them deeply engaged and emotionally committed to the solution–since they were part of the development.

    It reduces the risk or perceived risk, presumably, we with the customer are addressing them in the solution design.

    It is not a trick or gimmick—it’s just common sense.

    Thanks for the great addition to the post!

  3. Sales managers sometimes object to this approach. “Our customers look to us to recommend and configure the solution.” Fine. That works. The co-creation you describe must be part of the selling culture or upstream process so that salespeople don’t move by rote to recommendation or configuration without first co-developing the solution. I’ve tried it both ways, and moving to straight to proposal is always quicker for the salesperson, but it’s not very successful for advancing the sale.

  4. Great points Andy. I think there is a fundamental mis-understanding many (including me) have had.

    We don’t provide solutions, we provide a component of a solution. There is all the stuff the customer has to do to make it work and achieve the desired outcomes.

    Think of the thousands of ERP, CRM, you name it systems that were technical successes but business failures. The failure had little to do with the product (or solution) sold, but the ability of the customer to have the right processes, workflow, on and on to get what they want from the solution.

    We need to think of the total solution, not our component of it–because the customer’s problem is the total solution.

  5. When people talk of co-creation, many narrow-jacket it to mean co-creation is creating products with customers. However, as your blog seems to suggest, there is a need for co-creation within the business community itself to provide customers with “total solutions”.

    I think your words “In reality, our solutions are just a component of the solution our customers are looking for” are very wise. They are pregnant with a new insight into market segmentation, market positioning and importantly, b2b partnerships.

    There is co-creation when for instance, a retail coffee chain partners with a book publisher, to enhance the in-store experience of customers by giving them books to read while they sip a cup of cappuccino. I have been trying to highlight such B2X partnerships (b2b, b2g, etc) through my magazine,

    Have subscribed to your newsletter Dave. Immensely happy to have found you.

  6. Thanks for the great comment. Those are all great examples of co-creation. But it doesn’t have to go that far. It could be the process/workflow redesign to help the end users get the greatest value out of the solution that we supply.

    We don’t tend to think of things that way, but if we shifted our view and helped the customer with the whole problem, the value we co-create is pehnomenal.


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