Outcome-led selling: A simple switch in focus will make your sales calls more compelling
We talk a lot to our clients about how they should find out customers’ performance goals first, then craft their approach to help customers achieve those goals.
But recently I’ve been thinking about shifting away from the word “performance” and using a word that provides greater clarity: outcomes.
At Flume, we’re proud to be outcome-obsessed – we believe in honing your focus around what your customers ultimately want to achieve. It’s led us to think more about outcomes and how a simple change in mindset will help our clients create best-in-class sales experiences.
In The Outcome Generation, author Paul Henderson breaks the concept of outcomes down into two crucial groups: product outcomes and success outcomes. An easier way to think about this is short-term outcomes and long-term outcomes.
By the end of this article, you’ll understand how to use both types to structure your conversations and increase your chance of success.
Outcome-led selling starts with short-term outcomes. These are all about what customers need a product to do for them.
Imagine you work for a construction company and a client calls up wanting a door. Rather than getting straight into talking about your products, think about the outcomes first.
What does your customer need the door to do? Where will it go? Does it have to fit into an unusual space, be incredibly safe or just look great?
Once you understand the ideal outcome for the product, you can say “we can help you with that” with conviction. You can suggest a product that ticks all those boxes because you genuinely understand their requirements.
Long-term outcomes are all about the big picture. What project is your customer working on? In six months’ time, what will that door be a part of?
Maybe your customer is renovating a house and wants the whole thing to look amazing. In which case, finding out those outcomes has opened the door – pun intended – to a different conversation. You know what grand plan and what you can upsell.
I’ve been asked, “why not go straight to those long-term outcomes first?”
It’s because you need to be able to start the conversation by talking about the challenges you can solve right now, which means the short-term outcomes.
Plus, it’s all about what feels easiest for the customer. It can be overwhelming to call about a product and get asked about your five-year plan; make it effortless for them, so you can take that next step in the conversation.
Every sales team needs to focus on outcomes to drive powerful results, whether you’re thriving or surviving.
It’s easy to take your foot off the gas when business is good. But you’re missing out on two vital opportunities:
When you’re getting a lot of inbound leads, there’s often a temptation to close each sale quickly with a specific product in mind. The problem is, you might try and sell the customer something else a year later and find their interest has dropped off.
A more effective tactic is to pause on that first call. Listen to what your customer wants from that product and then move onto their long-term outcomes.
What do they want to achieve over the next two or three years? What KPIs do they have? What needs to change for them?
If you’re doing a lot of cold outreach, the worst thing you can do is go out there and say: “I’ve got this product – do you want to buy it?”
No one wants to be sold to, but people do want you to provide solutions for their problems.
In this case, it’s often better to switch the outcomes around. A customer might be reluctant to spend in a difficult market, but you can help them put the stepping stones in place to achieve their goals.
Where does the customer need to be in a year? Two years? What are those long-term outcomes?
Once you’ve got that information, you can go back to their short-term outcomes and explain how moving forward on those will help them progress towards their long-term goals.
When there’s hesitancy around spending, salespeople need to create urgency. You want your customer to take action, so share the long-term outcomes of other people like them.
Providing that perspective shows them how they need to shift the dial on certain metrics. If you don’t have that knowledge in your arsenal, it’s going to be tough to make them care.
Flume’s sales training is all about driving high-impact, lasting change in sales teams. Even if you think focusing on outcomes sounds fantastic, I know that the real hurdle will always be convincing your team to change habits.
From our experience, here’s what won’t work – giving your team a list of questions. It’s unbelievably hard to make scripted calls compelling and most of the time they come across as sterile and lifeless.
My advice is to give your salespeople the autonomy to approach the calls in a way that works for them. Put fields in your CRM so they know what information they need to get, then let them build a natural conversation.
You can provide a useful structure to direct the conversation around those important outcomes, but you leave the actual “doing” for your salespeople.
What do you think about outcome-led selling? How will you be training your sales team to utilise it? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so leave a comment on our LinkedIn article page.
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