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The Outcome-Centric Selling Blog

Answering every new customer's 4 key questions

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 29-Jun-2022

If your prospective customer is seriously evaluating a new project that involves both a significant investment and a change to their existing approach or environment, it is close-to-inevitable that they will be seeking clear answers to 4 key questions (and a clear consensus across all key members of their decision-making and approval stakeholder groups) before they will be prepared to make a commitment:

  1. WHY do they need to CHANGE (rather than stay on their current path)?
  2. WHY should they choose YOU (rather than any other option)?
  3. WHY do they need to act NOW (rather than later)?
  4. WHY should they APPROVE this project (rather than a competing investment - who will benefit, and how)?

If there is any uncertainty, ambiguity, lack of substance or doubt about any of the answers, your prospective customer is likely (at best) to delay their decision until things have been resolved, or to abandon their project and stick with the status quo (statistically the most common outcome).

That's why it is so important that salespeople follow a process that ensures that all of these elements are covered in their sales conversations and captured in their proposal to the customer - and it's why we've updated our "why commit" value story framework...

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Are your salespeople three whys men (and women)?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 6-Jul-2021

For my latest article for Top Sales Magazine, I’ve decided to explore the power of three whys and a who...

When it comes to complex B2B buying decision journeys, things are rarely straightforward. As Gartner are fond of reminding us, our prospective customers’ decision processes are typically complex, involve multiple stakeholders, and are often far from linear.

Simply understanding and satisfying their needs is rarely enough. Having the “best” offering (whatever that means) does not guarantee success. In fact, if a discretionary rather than an inevitable purchase is involved, the odds they will do anything at all are typically no better than 50/50.

In addition to uncovering, developing and satisfying their prospective customer’s needs, today’s B2B salespeople also need to both understand and influence how and why their prospective customers choose to buy - and that involves three whys and a who...

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Refining our customer’s value story

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 25-Mar-2021

Regular readers will know that I have been evangelising the critical importance of customer-specific value stories for a long time. I’d like to take this opportunity to update you on my latest story framework, fuelled by a growing number of client projects in complex B2B sales environments.

Let me start by explaining what I mean by a “customer-specific value story”. Unlike value propositions generally, which tend to be targeted at broad audiences rather than specific organisations, a customer-specific value story is unique to each prospective customer.

Because of this, no two customer value stories are ever exactly the same, even if those crafted for similar organisations who are facing similar issues will often exhibit similar overall themes. But they all benefit from following a similar framework...

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Creating collective value through customised value

Posted by Bob Apollo on Fri 11-Dec-2020

I recently made what I hope was a compelling case for creating a customer-specific unique value story for every significant customer opportunity.

I now want to turn my attention to a critical complement to every such value story: making explicit connections between collective organisational and customised stakeholder value.

This involves creating an “umbrella” value story that explains why it is in the organisation’s interest to act and aligning this overall story with more tailored value stories for each of the key interested parties.

In this way, we can clearly articulate “what’s in it for you?” for the whole organisation, for key functions and for key stakeholders - and establish the essential connections between them.

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What’s your customer’s unique value story?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 10-Nov-2020

Generic value propositions, although they might be of some use in persuading potential prospects to make initial contact with you as a potential vendor, aren’t very helpful when it comes to setting your customer’s expectations about the specific value that they will derive from implementing your proposed solution.

Each customer’s circumstances are different, and your value narrative needs to be tailored to their specific situation - and their particular priorities. It also needs to do more than simply communicate the value of your proposed solution - it must also answer the customer’s three critical questions whenever they evaluate any significant investment:

  • Why do they need to change at all, rather than stick with the status quo?
  • Why should they choose you, rather than any of their other options?
  • Why do they need to act now, rather than later?

If any of these questions are incomplete or unsatisfactory, the chances are that your potential customer will at best delay their decision and may abandon the project altogether. And yet far too many sales proposals still focus on answering the second question (“why us?”) while ignoring the first question and paying lip service at best to the third.

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Your customers don’t care about your so-called “solutions”

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 3-Nov-2020

Everywhere you look, sales organisations of all descriptions are promoting their so-called “solutions”. It’s become such an overused term that for years the UK’s Private Eye magazine published a fortnightly column satirising the most amusingly egregious misuses of the word.

Hopefully neither you nor any of the companies you have been involved with achieved your two weeks of fame by being featured in this way. Because it is my fervent belief that your potential customers don’t care for - and aren’t looking for - generic solutions.

I contend that a solution cannot exist in isolation from a clearly defined problem that a customer is determined to address. But a cursory review of sales and marketing literature shows that many of these mismarketed “solutions” are no more than another way of labelling a set of products or services, with no reference or relevance to an underlying problem or opportunity.

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