The eighties were a time of warring factions in the computer industry, especially in the PC category. I worked for Digital Equipment Corporation who was challenged as we went up against the powerhouse IBM.
Both companies were focused on features: specs for main memory, size of the hard drive and the ancient “floppy disk.” Both companies deployed a commonplace strategy at that time, advertised side-by-side comparisons.
The world was changing before our very eyes in those days; personal computers were coming on strong along with mini-computers. Functionality was the key sales point. Previously work was done manually – understanding how computers could automate functions was something completely new.
The promise of increased productivity was driving interest as these new technology advances came on the market.
How many of you remember one of the first companies to introduce spreadsheet software, Lotus 1-2-3? That may sound like the time when the Dead Sea got sick and we’ve come a long way since then!
Fast forward thirty years later and the world as we know it has changed. Everything is automated. Computers talk with other computers in networks. Smart phones have more bandwidth and computing power than mainframes had in the eighties. Markets are saturated and now the focus isn’t on hardware, it’s all about software.
Today, selling features and functions is a waste of your customer’s time and may result in a lost sale. Most customers couldn’t care less about the features of one of your products or services. Today it’s all about outcomes.
What are the tangible results of using your product or service. What are the benefits they can expect? What are the challenges your customer is facing and how can your product or service alleviate them? Functionality is a given in today’s marketplace, so if you can show how you can solve their problem, you’re heading in the right direction.
You have to learn how and if your solution can relieve their pain or achieve a gain? Will it increase productivity, decrease operational cost, increase sales and profits?
When you communicate outcomes, your customers will be all ears. Using a consultative approach will help you build a relationship that is for the long-term, not just a one-time sale.
With this approach, you’ll delay your demonstration. Instead of ‘dashing to the demo’, you’ll take the time to understand their specific needs so that you can identify the best demonstration for them. Just because they say yes to your demonstration doesn’t mean it will lead to a sale.
Your demo or presentation should be the last part of the buying cycle when all the needs are understood and developed. Now you can address them with your solution.
Some examples of great questions to start an outcome driven customer conversation include:
- What are you trying to achieve by making this type of investment?
- What are the issues your trying to alleviate?
- What outcomes are your expecting from this investment?
- In making this type of investment, what do you see as the benefits to your organization?
Understanding their needs so that you can present the most relevant outcomes will keep your customer engaged. Only then are you on-track for a meaningful sales conversation.