If many manufacturers and their sales teams sell products and not solutions, does that mean that their customers buy products too, and not solutions?
They buy both of course, but it depends on what level in the hierarchical pecking order they are. The C-suite buys brands because they see the big picture, and if given the choice, only want to be associated with the best of the best. (That also plausibly allows them to explain any “partner’s” failures with their version of “Nobody ever got fired for hiring IBM.” If they partner with good and trusted brands, then they can’t truly be faulted for having them as partners.)
And just about every successful brand, and therefore partner, sells some type of solution.
A solution, by any other name, is a set of services. And people “want” to buy services. Think Wal-Mart vs. K-Mart. Amazon vs. Barnes & Noble. Or the consumer electronics manufacturing industry. And there is, of course, Google. The Android will be a success at the very least because people know that Google provides solutions that solve problems (search, email, application accessibility, gadgets…) The Android, I bet, will ultimately overcome many cell phone software problems.
It’s normally the lower level purchasers that buy products, because priority #1 is to wring the most out of their budgets to impress their bosses, and their bosses’ bosses. Continuous improvement as it applies to budget maximization is an admirable goal, but at the lower levels, it impacts quality and, you guessed it, service capabilities, and many times ends up costing more than had they bought from the solutions company, which is normally at the higher cost level.
Buying solutions from a trusted brand is akin to buying an insurance policy: at the end of the day, knowing that the brand has you covered on all sides if anything happens enables you to think and act more clearly about your goals ahead. And with the right brand, those solutions will include how to achieve your goals in ways you had never thought.