Accelerating B2B Purchasing Decisions Through Outcome-Based Selling Q&A

by | Jun 20, 2024 | Empower Sales Conversations

HomeBlogEmpower Sales ConversationsAccelerating B2B Purchasing Decisions Through Outcome-Based Selling Q&A

For our June Webinar, Bob Apollo, Chief Outcomes Officer at Inflexion-Point will shared a framework for testing and verifying value in sales conversations throughout the buyer’s decision journey. After the session, he answered questions from the webinar audience. In this blog, we share his live answers.

At what point in the buyer decision journey should marketing and sales start communicating outcomes in financial terms?

I think it’s something that good practice suggests we should be progressively building and testing, but I think there’s a sequence to this. If I was going to prioritize something, it would be the costs and consequences of inaction. In other words, help the customer to recognize for themselves what staying on their current path means to them. Then, as we continue our dialogue with them – even from an early stage – we can start testing what the potential value of the upsides would be.

This is not something to be left until the end of a series of customer conversations, but I’d be inclined to start with helping the customer to articulate for themselves the economic and other consequences of just staying as they are because it’s going to be so important later on when we try to persuade them of the need for action.

You spoke about navigating complex buying committees. Does the business case change when speaking with different stakeholder types with different priorities?

There was some very interesting research done on this topic, I think it might’ve been by Challenger on whether you should customize for every member of the stakeholder group. And it turned out that if you over-customize, you make the collective decision-making harder because everybody’s saying, “Well, we should do it because here’s my objective” and they each hear a different set of reasons to buy.

The salesperson and the executive sponsor of the project need to find some sort of umbrella concept of economic value, or a reason to change, which operates at an organizational level. “This is why this organization needs to move forward with the investment, and by the way, the benefits to Finance are X and the Marketing benefits are Y, and the benefits to Engineering Z” and so on.

There’s a very interesting, coordinated dance to be done, and I think if you over-customize at the individual stakeholder level without establishing some sort of coherent umbrella that connects all of those things, you end up doing yourself more harm than good. That’s why I like talking about what a solution means for a specific buyer or a department, so you have a coherent reason to act, but you are tuning it so it resonates with all the important players.

Which of the four key questions you discussed do you see sales struggle with the most?

Most salespeople would think that they’ve probably mastered the “Why us?” reasonably well. I think “Why act?” is a bit more of a problem, but probably the most significant ones are “Why now?” and “Why trust?” An awful lot of opportunities seem to stall because there’s an insufficient sense of urgency, and I think salespeople sometimes struggle with that.

The urgency needs to be natural and driven by something that’s happening in the customer’s world. It’s very hard to successfully drive urgency by telling the buyer that they will get a 10% discount if they place an order this month. So, I would say the “Why now?”, the urgency, and the “Why trust? if we’re an unknown quantity. If we’ve never done business with that organization before, we have to work hard to establish the confidence of the people who are about to stick their necks out and say, “This is the path we should take.”

How can marketing and product teams best support the execution of outcome-based conversations in sales? What sort of content gaps do you often see? 

One observation I’d make is if people who carry the title Product Manager could rethink their responsibility as Problem Manager, they’d end up with a much broader perspective on things. What customer problems am I trying to solve, rather than what products am I trying to promote? One thing we need to recognize – and I’m talking now not about simple product-led growth, but rather complex buying decisions – is that we’ve got to realize that no matter how much content we create, the real traction comes from the conversation.

Now the content has to be good enough to make the customer want to speak to a salesperson. I think in terms of innovative content, I’d go back to being clear about the business issues we’re trying to solve and the implications of those issues. Then, let’s think about how the mindset of a prospective buyer might evolve as they go down this nonlinear buying journey. Early on they’re probably thinking, “Why do I need to act?” So, our material first needs to facilitate conversations around that when the customer ultimately engages.

But we also need to be saying things that not everybody else in our competitive space is saying, so that we have a different voice. Far too often in technology marketing, you hold the thumb over the vendor’s name and it all looks pretty similar and they’re all using rather ugly verbiage. So I’d see yourself in the customer’s shoes. I’d think about the issues. I think about the consequences. I think about the implications.

I’d be trying to put together material – it might be a video, might be a case study. Certainly, we need to equip the salespeople for anything that marketing generates. We need to say to the salesperson, “Well if this stimulates some interest, here’s where you go with a conversation, and here are some insights you might share in that conversation.” I don’t think the job’s over a tool when the content is published, and please don’t rely on differentiating yourself through who’s got the most check marks in a competitive table that you have created for yourself.

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