Value Selling Tips (pt.1): Selling Outcomes

Is your business seeking to maximise efficiency during 2023? If so, then transforming to an outcomes-based culture will help. You’ll be able to win more deals faster and with fewer resources. Plus, you’ll have more satisfied customers who are more likely to renew. 

In a previous blog, we explained that transforming your business so it has an outcomes-based culture starts with the sales team. This is because the sales process is often the first engagement new customers have with your company. It’s important to start selling on value outcomes immediately.

This article is the first in a series where we provide top tips to embed an outcomes culture in your sales team. Each blog focuses on a different stage of the sales process. 

What's Wrong with Selling Products?

Many B2B SaaS businesses focus on what they sell, rather than how they sell it. In other words, they spend a lot of time and effort highlighting their solution’s features and functions and not on connecting with the customer on what they value.

Today, competition is high; your business needs to have a great solution or it won’t be competitive. But developing a great solution is the role of the product and engineering team—not the commercial team.

The commercial team should focus on how to sell. This involves creating talent pipelines that train, coach and enable their salespeople to connect with their prospects on value. 

Many B2B SaaS companies want to communicate and sell the business value of their solutions, rather than features and functions. But many struggle to do this—they often know they need to find the right talent and give them good training. 

But training won’t solve the issue on its own. Businesses need to enable their salespeople to sell value consistently by creating a repeatable methodology. 

Selling on features and functions makes it harder to differentiate your solutions from competitor offerings. This makes it more difficult for buyers to make a decision. According to Gartner, this kind of indecision reduces a customer’s ability to make purchase decisions by 30%. It also reduces the likelihood that they will buy a premium product by 42%.

The Four-Step Outcomes Selling Process

Selling on outcomes solves these problems by focusing on solving the customer’s business challenges. There are four steps you need to take to achieve this in your sales process:

  1. Uncover the customer’s business challenges.
  2. Identify which key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure when overcoming those challenges. 
  3. Link achieving those outcomes and KPIs to your unique solution.
  4. Monitor ongoing success realisation.

To illustrate how this is different to a traditional approach that sells features and functions, let’s compare them side by side:

Discovery might be the first step in the process outlined above, but there are some things you need to do even before that. You need to ensure that both your sales team and your prospects are prepared to engage on success outcomes. Our first three tips explain how you can help them do that.

Tip 1: Lead with 'Good Enough' Hypothesis to Drive Engagement

A lot of salespeople enter discovery meetings with a discovery guide template or even just a blank sheet of paper, expecting clients to help them fill in the blanks. But this approach makes customers less likely to engage. That’s because customers:

  • May be reluctant to provide information about the difficulties they face.
  • Expect you to be the expert in solving their problems.

A better approach is to enter each discovery meeting with a simple value hypothesis. This only needs to be a few slides and it should say something like: ‘These are the typical business challenges and Success Outcomes for companies like yours. Do you see this in your organisation?’

Here are some tips for creating a ‘good enough’ value hypothesis:

  • It doesn’t have to be perfect: The goal of your hypothesis isn’t to be precisely correct every time. Instead, the aim is to trigger discussion with the prospect and then validate and refine your hypothesis at a later stage. 
  • Be credible: Your salespeople need a tool that will enable them to codify and map outcomes for different personas and market segments. It also needs to allow them to create a targeted ‘good enough’ hypothesis in a few clicks. You can back up your hypothesis with a relevant customer case study—this also shows that you have experience of solving these challenges and impacting those KPIs.
  • Train your sales team: Train your sales team to open each new discovery meeting with one slide on a ‘good enough’ value hypothesis. You can measure if they have been trained on this and are implementing it. By aiming for 100% adoption across your sales team, you ensure that everyone is taking at least the first step in your selling on outcomes methodology.

Tip 2: Frame the Discussion around 'Success Outcomes'

Value is not just about ROI. Often the term ‘value’ can sometimes set incorrect expectations in the minds of salespeople and customers. They mistakenly think that value selling is all about financial quantification, i.e., getting budget approved or justifying the price. These associations can lead to objections like:

  • ‘No thank you, we already have a business case.’
  • ‘Value selling isn’t appropriate for this prospect. They already know the value they will get from this.’ 

These objections can easily be avoided by framing the discussion around aligning on Success Outcomes. Tell your sales team and each prospect that you need to align on Success Outcomes for every project.

These Success Outcomes should be:

  • Specific and measurable. 
  • Defined using KPIs that will measure your solution’s success.
  • Tracked against once the solution has been implemented.

Here are some of the benefits of reframing the conversation in this way:

  • It’s a more engaging approach: Selling outcomes is more defensible than selling on price. It’s easy for a buyer to find reasons not to buy a solution, but it’s hard for them to object to solving their own problems. 
  • It’s more collaborative: You move the conversation from getting the deal done to setting up an ongoing partnership.
  • The customer needs to have this discussion: Aligning on success across relevant stakeholders is the first step in any change management plan. By having a conversation on Success Outcomes, you are helping them take this first step.
  • It’s still selling value: Just because Success Outcomes aren’t always financially quantifiable, it doesn’t mean that they don’t provide financial value.

Tip 3: Introduce Your Success Outcomes Methodology Early

Some prospects will push back against engaging in additional discovery and sales activities with you. This is a critical issue. Without collaboration, the adoption and credibility of your value and outcome selling process will be damaged. To overcome it you should train your sales team to:

  • Introduce your Success Outcomes methodology early and explain why it is important. 

For example, you might explain that:

  • You’re different from your competitors and focus on delivering business outcomes, not features and functions.
  • To do this you need to align on the business challenges the prospect needs to solve and the measurable success outcomes that will achieve them.
  • Doing this early will help you ensure you are a good fit.
  • It will also help you plan the right demo, propose the right solution and execute the right project.
  • Train your salespeople to explain why your process is valuable to the customer.

For example, you might explain that:

  • A large number of software purchases fail to achieve good adoption and results.
  • This is not normally because of the solution, but because of a lack of change management in the project.
  • Defining a clear vision and aligning on measurable Success Outcomes across all key stakeholders is the first step in any good change management plan.

If this opening explanation is done well, it will:

  • Set the right expectations. 
  • Make it easier for your sales team to guide prospects on how to evaluate and buy solutions successfully.

A note on RFx processes

Some sales teams automatically assume that they won’t be able to use value selling in an RFx-based sales cycle. However, these situations often present the best opportunity for selling on outcomes. 

That’s because the buying team involved in these processes are often not as well-informed as you might assume. They are often overwhelmed by the functional and technical requirements discussed by sales teams. 

Try to get them to engage in a discussion on business challenges and Success Outcomes. Doing so is an incredibly powerful way to help them cut through the capability overload they may be experiencing. It also makes the process about solving problems, rather than simply ticking a box.

Next: Get your whole team to perform good discovery consistently and at scale

Follow these three tips and your sales team and prospects will be well-prepared to engage in a powerful value-selling process.

In our next blog, we’ll provide three tips for getting your entire sales team to perform good discovery consistently and at scale. Or you can check out our kit of assets to make Value Selling easy.

If you’d like to learn more about how we help B2B subscription-based companies to realise an outcomes-based culture, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Contact us at hello@cuvama.com

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  • The Ultimate Guide to Value Selling – Taking you from what selling value really means, to how to implement it
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