Selling Business Outcomes

Selling Business Outcomes

Executives at large companies with complex problems need more than solutions and rarely have line-items in their budget for specific products or services. What they have are desired business outcomes that they need to achieve. A salesperson’s ability to start with the customer, understand their desired business outcomes and work backwards creates high-value, long-term strategic partnerships. Helping customers achieve their desired business outcomes is the next level of solution selling (solving active or latent problems with products or services).

Why focus on business outcomes? Technology decisions are shifting from central IT to the line-of-business (LOB). Forrester found 45% of LOB leaders increased their technology budgets. Gartner found CMOs now outspend CIOs in technology. IDC found only 40% of CIOs will lead digital transformation within their companies. Consequently, LOB leaders have greater influence on technology decisions. Salespeople with existing relationships in IT need to help CIOs enable business outcomes with technology. Salespeople must also develop relationships with the LOB.

Strategic salespeople do not sell technology, they sell business outcomes. They know that customers are interested in technology, but more interested in how it enables their desired business outcomes. They also know that customers can successfully solve their problems and not achieve their business outcomes – salespeople need to help customers do both to be a strategic partner. What is a business outcome? Dictionary.com defines business outcome as an end result or final product. Forrester defines business outcome as:

  • Achieved end state. The end state includes realistic (versus aspirational) activities the customer will do in the future to achieve its business objectives.
  • Verified through measureable results. Results do not have to be financial, but must be both measureable and observable to ensure that they have been achieved.
  • Tied to a funded top-level initiative. The top-level initiative is chartered and funded and is not rolled under or subordinate to a broader plan; e.g., no unplanned customer downtime.
  • Defined through the lens of the specific executive responsible for the end state. The perspective of the accountable executive, the individual with their job at risk if the top-level initiative fails, matters most.
  • Colored by the interests of related stakeholders. Achieving a business outcome requires coordination and support across functional areas of the company or organization.
  • Reached over time through a problem-solving lifecycle. Realizing the end state requires more than selecting a product or service (it begins by defining the business problem and often extends past adoption).

Instead of focusing on bits and bytes, speeds and feeds, strategic salespeople focus on the customer’s desired business outcomes. They connect the problems they are working to solve with business outcomes, especially when their products or services are technology-based. For example, migrating IT infrastructure to AWS is connected to the business outcome of no unplanned customer downtime. Engagement is making the customer successful, not selling technology. When salespeople only focus on technology, they have “outcome blinders” on.

When customers see salespeople working to help them achieve their desired business outcomes, not just positioning how their technology products or services solve existing problems, they are more likely to make investments and partner at a higher, strategic level. Strategic salespeople do not focus on revenue to move the needle. They focus on helping customers achieve their desired business outcomes and watch the needle move. Engagement, from business problem to solution adoption, must always focused on making the customer successful.

All contents copyright © 2018, Josh Lowry. All rights reserved.

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