For our June Webinar, Bob Apollo, Founder and Chief Outcomes Officer at Inflexion-Point, shared his guidelines for creating sales cultures that reflect customer- and outcome-centric values. After the session, he answered questions from the webinar audience. In this blog, we share his live answers.
Is there an overlap between the values that make for great salespeople and great sales leaders?
Absolutely. In fact, there is probably a super set of the values that we look for and expect from sales leaders. Honesty integrity, the willing to speak truth to power – all of those things are highly relevant, necessary, and valuable for salespeople, for frontline sales managers, and actually all the way up through the sales leadership stack. If we’re expecting our salespeople to behave in a value-centric way, according to our culture, then it’s very important that everybody that they look up to conveys the same signals and behaves in the same way.
What KPIs do outcome-centric sales teams focus on? Are there any KPIs that are less useful in terms of aligning with customer outcomes?
First, let me make a statement. I’m not saying in any way that activity levels aren’t important, but I think an obsession with activity levels (in other words, quantity over quality) has a really negative impact on trying to create a value- (and values-) centric culture. Just as it’s important that we understand the business outcomes that our customers are seeking to achieve, our own internal metrics are much more valuable when they reflect outcomes. And an outcome might be not that I completed a call, but that the customer committed to do something an advance that reflects progress in both their buying journey and in my sales cycle. So we actually can look at outcomes as a very important internal KPI or metric because outcomes inherently reflect the quality of what we’ve done, and not just the quantity.
What strategic levers do organizations have at their disposal to align salespeople around the CARE cycle?
You need to look carefully at this. If a measure of compensation or performance measurement is down to the customer’s clear acceptance and usage of the solution and not just down to the salesperson taking an order for it, then that can be very helpful as part of compensation or measurements being [aligned with] customer satisfaction, not just customer usage. You want to set the expectations correctly before you take an order. Now would that always result in some amendment to compensation? Maybe not, but it might trigger a proper coaching discussion with salespeople who appear not to be setting the right expectations with their customers because that’s only going to harm the organization that they work for. Integrating customer success into the sales cycle, making sure the salespeople understand what business outcomes the customer’s looking for, that information is relayed to customer success if and when the customer is handed over. This way, the customer isn’t forced to go through the rigmarole again, as if they’d never talked about it.
Are there any industries where certain longstanding organizational practices result in a suboptimal sales culture?
It’s evolving in a couple of dimensions. In any industry where renewals or expansion are important, customer success is important. I think that in the early days, customer success was probably more focused on ensuring usage and adoption, and reacting to issues in a timely fashion. But I think there is a bigger view of customer success now, and that includes making sure the customer success team is having discussions about business outcomes and delivered value and building a positive mindset in the customer way before renewal comes up, the customer has already recognized the value of what they’ve been achieving
[Across industries] I think there are patterns, but I don’t think they’re inevitable. For example, if industries see themselves as operating in a very transactional mode – competing on the basis of price and delivery or specification, then they often have less sophisticated approaches to understanding what the customer’s outcomes are. Industries where a very significant amount of their businesses is repeat business, but not based on renewal but re-consumption. But I’ll tell you what, even if in those industries, if you can lay a foundation of perceived differentiated value, then your chances of continuing to grow with the customer go up.
I think of these concepts as a matrix. On one side of the matrix, I think about whether the customer is on a familiar or an unfamiliar buying journey? If they think it’s a very familiar journey, they’ve got processes for buying. If it’s unfamiliar, they need to be educated. And they probably recognize that. And then on the other dimension is whether this is an inevitable or a discretionary purchase? When you’ve got the convergence of an unfamiliar buying journey, plus a discretionary purchase, then a focus on value and on outcomes and not just answering, “why choose us,” but answering, “why change, why act now, how do we get this project approved internally versus all of the other competing projects?” Well, at that intersection the sort of approaches I’ve been describing become particularly relevant – essential, even.