Defining outcome-based selling
Outcome-based selling means a focus on the customer’s desired outcome, as opposed to focussing on pushing the sale of a product or service. It requires a more consultative approach, understanding customer pain points and priorities. You can then deliver a personalised outcome-based solution.
An example of this could be a business struggling to manage their customer base. Through signing up for a CRM system, the company has access to technology which will inherently improve their sales and save them time. But the outcome is NOT the successful implementation of a CRM system: the outcome is whether the customer was able to increase sales and productivity.
Traditional sales vs. outcome-based selling
Traditionally, sales leaders have been focussed on features and price when driving sales. There has been some adaptation over the years, with a greater focus now on selling the benefits of a product rather than solely focussing on features alone. However, outcome-based selling takes this up a notch. No longer is the focus on selling individual benefits, instead, the focus is on a broader, long term outcome for the client.
When it comes to technology and IT services, this shift is extremely helpful. No longer are you competing to be the cheapest product or the one with the most features; instead, you can place a focus on the outcome. This also allows top salespeople to shift away from selling to lower-level IT buyers, who may only be purchasing for small pockets of the company. The focus can instead be moved over to the C-Suite or the business and executive buyers. These new buyer types are not typically feature focussed. Instead, they want to know the outcome for the business. These types of buyers have greater control of company finances and are able to implement solutions at a company level, not just within a small department.
In my own experience, I have seen technological solutions fail simply as a result of fragmented use across a company. Going back to our CRM example, if two departments in the same company are leveraging totally different CRM systems, there are going to be problems. This, in turn, is likely to mean reduced adoption of the technology and reduced loyalty to the product or service. If you can get buy-in across the entire company, the solution becomes a lynchpin and the company cannot operate without it.
Top sales performers will undergo rapid change
The change of buyer types is one of the many changes top sales performers are facing. With the price of technology declining, the expectation is that the cost of basic IT should go down, not up. This inherently means sales teams have to sell more every year just to maintain their current financial position. The combination of increased acquisition costs, alongside new and innovative competitors, means that the model needs to change.
If sales teams do not undergo rapid change, they are likely to be left behind.
With this in mind, CEOs are now having to ask sales professionals to sell more and to differentiate themselves. It is for this reason top sales performers are opting to follow outcome-based selling.
Most of the competition is still selling features, and at a low price, this makes a comparison between them very easy. Selling your business impact is a key differentiator, and much harder to directly compare to a competitor. This also allows you to potentially group multiple products together and sell more products from your portfolio at a time.
Benefits of outcome-based selling
Through having a focus on the outcome for a customer, your approach is going to become more consultative. You can have an increased number of touchpoints where you are demonstrating an interest in helping them meet their desired outcomes, as opposed to simply selling products. The sales role almost merges with that of customer success as a result of this closer relationship.
A closer relationship not only ensures you are a valuable asset to their company but also increases customer loyalty. Despite rapid technological changes, people still prefer to work with familiar faces whom they trust.
The byproduct of closer relationships and outcome-based selling is the ability to win more. While relationships are great, the reality is that it is the job of a salesperson to close deals and outcome-based selling allows for this.
This approach helps top sales performers primarily in two ways. Firstly, the win rates associated with outcome-based selling are significantly higher than that of the traditional RFP (request for proposal) approach. Secondly, through selling an outcome, there is the opportunity to group multiple products and services together, rather than just selling a single product, this increases each customer’s value. These two elements, combined with no longer focusing on being the cheapest, allows for companies to sell less, but generate more revenue. When compared to traditional selling, where the opposite is happening, the best approach is obvious.
How top sales performers are selling based on the outcome
Top sales performers are already using outcome-based selling techniques. With this in mind, the following steps will help your sales team apply this method to your sales arsenal.
- Assign buyer personas: Buyer personas are not a new concept, but they do provide an effective way to understand your customers at scale. From this, you can glean the information you need to better approach both existing and new potential customers.
- Understand their specific needs: Once a conversation has been initiated with a client, listen to the challenges they are facing and their vision. You can use the buyer persona combined with these more specific details to identify how you can help them reach their goals through addressing their pain points.
- Making the connections: Using your knowledge of what your business can offer combined with their specific needs, it is your job to show how you can be the connection between their current position and their ideal outcome.
- Present the solution: Using the buyer persona, you are able to demonstrate to your customer that you not only understand them, but you understand their space and the problems faced by others like them. This helps you to stand out as a person of authority in this space, not just a salesperson. Show how you are able to help them realise their desired outcome and how you have addressed their specific needs.
- Ensure the outcome is met: You may have made the sale, but now it is time to keep to your promise. Check-in regularly and ensure the client is on their way to realising their goals.