Your 2019 sales strategy: Win business by focusing on your customers’ outcomes rather than your information.

“People don’t buy two-inch drill bits, they buy two-inch holes.” — Thomas Levitt

Insight selling is an adequate model but it runs the risk of parity.   In that setting a salesperson educates, collaborates, and then tries to persuade.  It also tends to result in organization-centric solutions (“My close ratio is too low.”  Solution: “Sign up for our training program.”).  As well as gaining valuable insights, high-performing sales people should put greater emphasis on the outcomes that his or her customer is striving to attain and why they choose to work with you, your products, your company.

I recently purchased an old school Nintendo with two specific outcomes in mind.  Friends were visiting for the weekend and their son loves old school games.  My reasons for the purchase included giving the young guy something to do and that he enjoys.  Also, I wanted to win a little more kid-free time for the adults.  Others might purchase the same gaming system out of  nostalgia.  Still others may purchase a Nintendo because of the price point.  In my case the product satisfied the specific outcomes.  When a salesperson understands the outcomes a customer wants when choosing who to work their ability to improve specific aspects of service or product performance increase.  A salesperson’s decisions become outcome based rather than information based.  

Creating an outcome based value proposition means salespeople need to understand why their customers do business with them (or as Clayton Christensen describes it, “Why they hire you”).  In lieu of habit or a revolutionary product innovations the reasons are most likely outcome driven.  A HVAC business owner may supply the information and insights that a salesperson is requesting.  The same owner may be intrigued by an idea or a collaborative process.  However, neither of those considerations may be the actual reason he opts for one supplier while rejecting or ignoring others.  An owner may select one supplier over another because his ideal outcome is improved operational efficiency–and that is his primary goal.  Regarding products, an owner may prefer one supplier over another because of better packaging and reliable inventory.   A third owner’s desired outcome may be positioning the business for a succession plan.  The variety of outcomes are as multi-faceted as a Starbucks coffee menu.   Ultimately, business owners buy progress over products–it is up to the salesperson to understand the unique outcomes that an owner defines as progress.  

This exciting sales model poses an obvious challenge: A business owner’s desired outcome may be outside of the sales person’s skill set.  Outside salespeople are going to have to build trusted talent networks in and outside of their organizations.  They must commit to continued learning or else they will fall far behind the middle of the bell curve.

I’m writing this from our local library.  I come here for some peace, wi-fi, and to wander the stacks.  There are a few moms, dads, and kids nearby.  They’re here to play and listen to a story.  There are three high school students sharing a table nearby.  I’d like to think they’re working on academics but they might also be skipping school and hiding out.  We’re all using the same product and services but with different outcomes in mind.  The library would increase the frequency of my visits if they promoted “Your office away from the office.”  The families might increase their visits with a published events newsletter than celebrated the reading and activity schedule.  The high schoolers?  Maybe the message is “Remember your favorite hide-out as a kid?”  All of us using the same product and services for with different outcomes in mind.

As a salesperson, if you want to lever simple insights then look past the conversations about education and collaboration (“teach-tailor-take control”) in language of The Challenger Sale.  Instead, combine them with an understand as to why people prefer your company, why they “hire” you, and most importantly: the outcomes that your customers are looking for.  Then improve your efforts accordingly.

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