This issue was raised by a Senior Sales Leader at a major IT services company and it is a problem that faces all of the traditional IT companies as they move towards a more solution-based offering.
The complexity of modern IT solutions has meant that customers cannot simply buy a collection of products in the hope that they can somehow create a coherent system. They need, and demand, solutions - and to supply the solution you must first understand the problem.
But you need to be careful, says our Sales Leader, because the flip-side is that you can end up offering nothing. Indeed the supplier becomes a time-leech, hoping that their busy customers can hangout with them going through their issues in detail so the supplier can pitch and win the business.
The answer therefore lies between neither offering a Black Box product for the customer to sort out, nor, to use his phrase, 'a lazy consultancy service'. Both come with very considerable uncertainty for the customer. And no-one buys uncertainty on purpose.
Instead they want a thing to solve a defined problem that they understand, which needs some minor (and therefore relatively inexpensive) customisation. That is something that people can buy.
So IT firms cannot take the lazy - 'you tell me' route - but they do need to understand their customer's problems at a very core level. They need to listen to their customers (Fujitsu, for example, have a global initiative called 'the voice of the customer' to solicit this information) and also listen to the broader market.
They then need to use their own expertise to add to the debate. They need to add something and be seen to do so. And in doing so tread the line between those two uncomfortable options.