Today’s post is by Sherri Sklar, CEO of GrowthTera, a consulting firm that helps organizations accelerate growth by elevating their performance to WOW. Hear her present “Sales Planning: Strategies that Leave Your Competition in the Dust” live at the Sales 3.0 Conference in Las Vegas on September 18 and 19.
Recently a sales leader asked me for some advice about selling business outcomes versus solutions:
A customer is angry because she says her company is not receiving the perceived benefits of the solution we sold them. She said that, although we were very good at showing them how our solution met their needs, nobody from our team helped them track the business outcomes to make sure that they received the benefits we told them they should be receiving. This has impacted her ability to demonstrate measurable results from her decision to go with our solution. Our whole account relationship is in jeopardy over this. If we lose this account, even my job could be in jeopardy. What would you recommend we do?
Sales VP in Jeopardy
This is becoming the new normal: there’s actually a disconnect between the value we say we deliver and what customers are actually experiencing.
Based on conversations with our clients, many B2B enterprises continue to struggle in two ways:
- Building strategic relationships with customers that focus on business outcomes. Sales executives tell us one of their biggest frustrations is establishing trusted advisor relationships and competing at the strategic level. Reps have to be able to ask the right questions and understand what customers expect in terms of business outcomes and how they measure success. The problem is, many sales reps are not incorporating into their sales vernacular what truly matters to customers in terms of business outcomes.
- Tracking and ensuring that the promised outcomes indeed happen. We all want to be treated with respect and honor. That’s a basic human need. So, if you promise something, you’d better deliver it. Delivering it means not just tossing the implementation over to your professional services or onboarding engineer. It means sales, service, support, and product development all need to come together to develop a shared understanding of how to deliver the business outcome expected by this customer.
We need to do a better job at making a difference – and it’s not going to happen by delivering “insights” alone. It’s not going to happen by delivering a great “customer experience.” It’s not even going to happen by delivering added value and being the “trusted advisor.”
Don’t get me wrong; those things are important but, today, they only get you to “meets expectations” on the buyer’s checklist. The company that is going to truly make a difference is the one that has figured out how to deliver business outcomes and not just solutions.
So how do you make the shift from a solutions-focused to outcomes-focused sales organization?
Here’s what I recommended to this sales VP:
- Find out which outcomes your customer cares about and how they measure their business. Ask them what success would look like to them. According to an Oracle report, “Competing for Customers,” although 77 percent of sales believe they understand their customer’s business and how they are measured, in reality, buyers say only 7 percent of us truly get it. This backs up Salesforce’s finding that 82 percent of salespeople are still not aligned with the needs of their buyer.
- Conduct joint planning with your customers to understand their environment and determine how much improvement they could actually achieve in the next three to five years. Can you make a meaningful difference to their business? Pay your people to not only hit their short-term numbers, but also to plan over a long horizon to truly make a strategic impact and achieve long-term business outcomes.
- Engage and educate other parts of the company to focus on making your customer successful. Make sure key stakeholders within your company – including implementation, support, sales ops, and even finance and administration – are familiar with your customer and your customer’s environment and expectations. Create a cross-functional SWAT team inside your own company to proactively help your customers achieve their stated business goals with your solution.
- Create a scorecard to measure and track the progress your team is making. Your goal is to WOW your customer – and you can only do this by measuring the impact you are having on your customers’ business and their experience doing business with you. By maximizing the value you deliver and making it easy to do business with your company, you can turn customers into brand advocates.
- Foster relationships between your C-level executives and your customers’ C-level executives to communicate progress and identify new ways you can help deliver measurable business results.
Is focusing on outcomes something you should be doing? Absolutely. When Oracle analyzed the impact of shifting their customer relationships from purely a transactional relationship to one where the focus was on how to make customers successful, the incremental revenue rose by 110 percent. It makes sense: when customers see you are advocating for the business outcomes and not just how your solution solves a need, they are more likely to make investments at a higher, more strategic level. And that’s a WOW for them – and you too!