5 Keys to Aligning Sales with Business Outcomes
By Mike Kemp, District Manager, cStor
With technology playing a more critical role within today’s organizations, business and IT leaders have an opportunity to differentiate their company and provide more value than ever before. However, the business impact of technology solutions also means that IT buying decisions often now occur at the business owner level, necessitating that any technology solutions must align with core business priorities.
Additionally, with budgets tightening across industries, CFOs and C-level executives have increased scrutiny on key purchase decisions in regard to IT spending. Thus, technology sales efforts must prove true value to the business, and sales techniques need to align with business outcomes.
Outcome-based selling shifts the focus to how you can positively impact the business by understanding their needs. The result offers higher value to your clients, higher margins for your company, and long-term, loyal clients.
Key Considerations for Aligning Sales with Business Outcomes
When you begin the process of aligning your sales efforts to focus on business outcomes, here are some important considerations to keep in mind.
1. Strategy Behind the Tactical
Implementing an outcome-based selling model not only helps your clients, it gives you a competitive advantage. When you lead with specific business objectives, such as financial and KPI improvements, you quickly garner the attention of the business executive and differentiate your company from the others who lead with products and features. Forrester found only 20% of sales conversations aligned to client goals, while 80% focused on vendor products and features.
Outcome-based selling puts less emphasis on features, function and price. With the amount of technology solutions on the market, pricing has become largely commoditized. Likewise, products have become feature-rich, meaning there is a shift away from winning a “feature war” and the features have become more of a baseline. Additionally, with the shift to business-level buyers, there is not as much focus needed on features and technical details; instead, the buyer is more concerned about usability and how they can achieve their business outcomes.
Instead, the focus is on aligning technology solutions to business objectives, the outcome-based solutions should focus on the specific value to the business. Sales executives need to understand the desired business goals first and then link those goals to the KPIs and outcomes the technology provides in order to help the business owner meet their specific goals for the organization.
2. Positive vs. Negative Business Outcomes
At its core, an outcome is a measurable value a client may or may not receive as a result of the solution. Sales techniques can inherently focus on either positive or negative outcomes. The same message can be construed in dramatically different ways based on how it is positioned with the client.
Consider the used car salesman analogy of high pressure and fear tactics. No one wants to be sold that way. Instead of leading with negative outcomes, focus on positive outcomes. For example, instead of saying, “If you don’t use this security software, you will become a victim of ransomware, costing your organization millions and ultimately costing you your job.” Instead, shift to a positive outcome such as, “This security solution helped our client detect an intrusion that came from an employee device and saved the company millions of dollars.” This shift immediately sets the tone for the rest of your sales efforts.
Like the example, a key way to focus on positive outcomes is by relating success stories of how other clients solved their business objective that was similar to your client’s goals. This can help your client better visualize the value of your solution while giving you added credibility. Although fear and negative based outcomes may sometimes be effective, they do not foster positive client relationships. Positive outcomes are much more effective in establishing rapport and long-term trust.
3. Listen and Ask Why
While success stories are important to help illustrate your value in solving a business challenge, each client and organization has different drivers and needs. This is why active listening is so important to the process. Forrester found that 41% of sales professionals listened for key phrases, then quickly started giving their prepared pitches before they understood the business outcome the buyer was trying to communicate.
Your reps must be able to hear what the client is expressing and delve further by asking key questions to elicit why their specific outcome is important to them and the company. The outcome is often easier to obtain from the client but getting to the why tends to be more difficult. What are the core drivers for the outcome? What organizational challenges or opportunities are impacting the specific outcome? These insights can help both your reps and the client make key decisions on the solutions that will best deliver success.
4. Repeat it Back
After listening, the next step is to summarize what the client has told you, recapping the most important drivers, needs and outcomes. First, it demonstrates to the client you were actively listening and shows you care about what they were saying. This seems like a no-brainer, but in today’s “always-on” world, it is quite easy to become distracted and tune someone out. Showing you are actively engaged in the conversation goes a long way towards establishing rapport with your client. Second, it gives you a chance to make sure you heard everything the client said and an opportunity for the client to provide key feedback on areas either they or you missed. This is critical in developing your solution and establishing key success metrics that will meet or exceed their desired outcome. Finally, it helps you gain consensus on both the needs and outcomes to determine the next steps and advance the sale.
5. Ensure Your Efforts are Legally, Financially and Marketing Driven
The shift to outcome-based selling has a trickle-down effect on every part of your organization. When your company is focusing on solving business issues and providing true value to the business, it helps simplify your marketing messages and focus your go-to-market approach.
As with anything, your team must also adhere to legal and industry standards when developing outcome-based solutions for clients. The salesperson should never promise outcomes that cannot be achieved with your proposed solution or service. Likewise, all outcomes should be documented within a client contract and reviewed by your organization’s legal team to ensure no false claims or promises are made that can jeopardize the company.
Finally, the outcome-based solutions must make financial sense for your organization. The goal of outcome-based selling is to shift from commoditized product sales to more profitable solutions and services that drive business value for your clients. Thus, it is key for the sales team to routinely review their pricing and services to ensure profitability is aligned with the financial goals of the company.
Aligning your sales organization to business outcomes will provide your organization with long-term, measurable results. Outcome-based selling gives you the ability to upgrade your executive conversations by becoming a trusted leader in innovative business technology solutions. It is a win-win for you and your clients – helping you build long-term relationships and mutual success.
Source: Forrester Technology Sales Enablement Conference