What does customer-centricity mean for a sales organization in a complex sales environment? The tech industry has implemented different Go-To-Market models over the last decades, different sales strategies and methods. Very often, the design points along the vendor’s value communication chain didn’t really change, they often remained inside-out, still based on last century’s GoToMarket design points such as product, place, promotion, price. Very often, the content and enablement teams mapped the sales messages on the last mile to the customer’s perspectives – to problem, pattern, path and proof.
Let’s look at research data:
A variety of studies on executive buyers, how they buy and how they differentiate between vendors, clearly show: Primarily, it’s not about products and solutions – it’s about a vendor’s ability to model the customer, to understand what a customer wants to achieve in terms of desired outcomes. Further, it’s about the vendor’s ability to map their capabilities to the customer’s business problems and to be able to drive their outcomes – that’s about translating a vendor’s capabilities in a meaningful way to the buyer’s specific challenges.
To sum it up – a valuable conversation with a salesperson is not about the vendor’s company and products, it’s all about the customers, their issues, goals and desired outcomes. Actually, it’s how much a sales person really cares.
What is an outcome really? According to Forrester, an outcome has a defined end state with measurable results, is based on a strategic top-level initiative with an executive stakeholder and a variety of impacted stakeholders. Achieving outcomes as described in the latter, require a life cycle: it’s much more than designing and selecting solutions and implementing them.
Outcomes, especially business outcomes, will be achieved after the successful technical implementation phase: the adoption phase. The implemented technology is an enabler for the desired outcomes, technology itself is NOT the outcome. The value we create for customers with smart technology is one part to achieve outcomes. The other part are additional services, often from partners, and additional efforts as change management. Outcome selling follows the outside-in approach and has different design points – the customer challenges and needs. It’s a pull, not a push approach. To be pretty clear what I mean: “Pull” doesn’t mean to be re-active, the opposite is the case. It simply means to change the way of thinking and acting to an outside-in approach, it means to own the customer’s outcome, and to fight for their outcomes, it means to really care, being a sales warrior in a positive sense – more on that here: All About Sales Warriors – Fighting For Customer Outcomes. Outcome Selling is GoToCustomer, no longer GoToMarket.
What are the most important outcome selling challenges?
First of all, we need a different way of thinking: Structured, analytical, logical – the so-called left brain thinking was the predominant driver of not only sales methodologies during the 20th century. The 21st century’s complex challenges require much more right-brain thinking, which is not sequential, but simultaneous, which is not specialized on text, but on context and which is not analyzing the details, but synthesizing the big picture.
Second, it’s about a different way of working together in sales. It’s no longer the lonely, information hoarding, “pushing” product selling sales rep who will win the major deals. The collaborating, the sharing sales teams will be successful, with an account executive in an orchestrating general manager role, who perfectly knows how to connect the right experts to the right customer stakeholders at the right time, according to the customer’s journey and their desired outcomes – collaboration skills at its best are required!
Then, we need much more business acumen, industry expertise and outside-in value messaging skills on how to share insights and best practices, how to challenge the customer in a positive way with approaches how to tackle a challenge, they didn’t know before. Given a massively reduced knowledge asymmetry between sellers and buyers on the one hand, and an increasing number of impacted stakeholders and longer sales cycles on the other hand – the value a sales team can create is huge:
It’s providing clarity and context, putting different approaches into perspective, using specific insights to orchestrate the different stakeholders and to create a shared vision of success – before talking about their services and products to solve the problem. That’s supporting and enabling customers perfectly along their journey to make their best decision– then we are talking about buyer enablement, no longer about sales enablement – our way to go, if we are really serious with GoToCustomer.
Wikipedia’s definition on collaboration is simple, but effective: “Collaboration is working together to achieve a goal”.
“Achieving a goal” makes the difference. Often, collaboration is considered from a technological point of view, which is of course a necessary enabler – but first of all we have to define precisely from a business perspective in which cases we want to collaborate to achieve which goals and how – across the organization and with partners across our eco-system. That requires to connect the dots between collaboration objectives and related business objectives.
What does collaboration mean for outcome selling?
Working cross-functionally backwards from the customer is the key for sales teams; their internal cross-functional collaboration and their external collaboration with customers and partners. It means to bring all relevant sales roles on the same page regarding the explicit knowledge of an account’s challenges and as-is situation, the account growth strategies and ongoing strategic initiatives.
That’s easier said than done. Focused on last century’s push models, many sales reps could be very successful just by focusing on their favorite products, based on their favorite customer stakeholder level. Sharing information at this time was often considered as useless and wasted time – just to make co-workers more successful? No way…
Then, organizations asked them to sell higher and to cross sell, both scenarios outside of their comfort zone.
First, it’s about sales leadership on all levels. It’s key to success, that only people that are proven collaborators and coaches are promoted in sales manager and sales leader roles – always with the aim to create more leaders, not more followers. The sales manager’s role is often underestimated. But that’s the layer in every sales organization that has to be equipped first, because no other role has such a leverage effect when it comes to increase performance AND to drive transformation. Sales coaching is the way to go. As we know from latest research (CSO Insights), the sales managers of best-in-class sales organizations spend most of their time on coaching and they follow a structured coaching process. And this is a sales enablement – a sales force enablement challenge.
Second, define incentives for sales people and their managers, when they collaborate successfully. Connect their sales quota to defined and measurable collaboration objectives e.g. driving a community, sharing best practices, act as a coach for junior sales reps and new hires to transfer tacit knowledge, define different expert levels on the relevant collaboration and sales enablement platforms – give them a variety of possibilities to improve their personal branding.
Who is driving such a transformation that impacts the entire sales force?
First, it’s about the sales leadership team. They have to decide where to go. In terms of design and execution, I strongly believe, it’s a perfect role for a strategic, cross-functional sales force enablement function, sitting within sales. Yes, I mean sales force enablement – the discipline has to wake up and needs to equip sales managers and salespeople based on one GoToCustomer framework. What sales managers get in terms of coaching maps and sales management frameworks should be the mirror of the sales enablement services in terms of content and trainings that are provided for salespeople. Design point of every GoToCustomer framework – the entire customer’s journey.
Let’s connect the dots to master 21st century challenges – from push to pull, with passion and compassion!
“This article is part of the “21st Century Sales Warrior iGuide”