How many times have you, as a buyer or observer, listened to sales reps lead with product capabilities, emphasizing the strength of their company and the greatness of their offering. Yes, it’s exhausting. And it’s really a turn off. It’s the type of meeting that results in a response like: "You’ve given us a lot to consider, thanks. We’ll be in touch once we’ve had time to think about it."
We can do a lot better than that, and one of the keys is focusing on outcomes rather than products. Solution selling strategies have emphasized the need to lead with diagnosis—asking good questions that uncover buyer pain points and vision for the future. That approach is certainly not out of date. But too many questions can also frustrate buyers.
So we need balance in the discussion. We have to give buyers some return on investment—confidence they’re not wasting time—for all the great information they are providing. The answer is business outcomes.
Somewhere early in the discussion, sales reps need to clearly share the outcomes they bring their customers. After some open ended questions and uncovering basic needs, reps need to let buyers know this is going somewhere—that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
- Here’s an example: "It sounds like this is an area we can help you. We normally reduce the time it takes a marketing staff to execute quarterly document updates by 250% within 2 quarters. Sometimes as much as 400%."
When you give buyers this kind of confirmation, they really open up. It gives them confidence they’re making a good time investment and provides you the information to fully diagnose and determine to what degree you can help. I’ve watched this work beautifully so many times I can’t even tell you.
A few points on delivering the outcome message.
Carefully prepare your outcome messages
Focus on the most important challenges you solve. You might have one key outcome message, or several depending on your solution or service. The simpler the better.
Use an X to Y by Z format for your outcome message
"On average, we reduce sales rep turnover by 16% within 1 year of program implementation." This lays it out in clear, simple terms with no extra fluff. Buyers can quickly understand the message and apply it to their situation.
Jill Konrath does a great job discussing the importance of focusing on outcome messages in her book "Agile Selling." She has some excellent sales resources on her site: www.agilesellingbook.com. The Value Proposition Tool Kit is all about crafting effective X to Y by Z messages.
Deliver the outcome message artfully
Make sure you deliver your outcome messages naturally. No blunt instruments please. Ask questions that will setup your delivery. After delivery, ask good follow up questions that refocus the discussion on the buyer’s situation.
Stay away from product pitching
After delivering the outcome message, don’t get lured into product talk. That will take you into the weeds, pricing discussions, and all that. Plenty of time for that later. Instead, refocus on the buyer’s situation, the pains they have and their vision.
A quick story to end…
We were looking to implement an inbound marketing strategy a few years ago. We were working with a great little company in Philadelphia that specializes in inbound marketing and marketing automation. We were going back and forth, discussing needs, where we were, and so on. I knew these guys were good and could help us, but they wanted us to sign up for a sizeable contract. Then, Eric, the head of sales said, "Pete, we can probably increase your organic visits from X (where we were) to Y by the end of this year." Y was 650% greater than X. It was the whole reason we were pursuing a solution. I was sold.