Value Creation And Co-Creation In Outcome Selling Scenarios

I was very inspired reading Dave Brock’s brilliant thought leader post „Moving From Value Creation To Value Co-Creation“ including the great discussion on his blog. The essence of these thoughts made me challenging and rethinking the idea of the customer’s journey – especially in an outcome selling scenario.

My focus today is complex business: Customers want to achieve certain business outcomes and vendors are focused on how to enable customers to achieve their desired outcomes with the vendor’s capabilities in a kind of co-creation. That requires to use the customer’s capabilities and sometimes also capabilities from partners. What we shouldn’t forget – value co-creation can only happen, when vendors (and partners) as well can achieve their desired business outcomes. My hypothesis is, that value co-creation belongs to an outcome selling approach – based on a collaborative, customer-centric approach. Outcome selling not only requires that the vendor designs the whole selling system backwards from the customer’s journey, it also requires different selling skills and behaviors. It’s a place for value- and purpose-driven sales people rather than for quota-driven people.

Value hypotheses:
Very early along the customer’s journey, we should try to get our foot in the door, to challenge the customer, to share insights, best practices, case studies – to make them thinking differently about their challenges, to help them to change perspectives, to show them a first vision of a future state – how to better achieve their desired outcomes. Our value messaging should consider two dimensions: One is the stage along the customer’s journey, the other one is the buyer role model. So, we are working with a value hypothesis, tailored to the role of the potential executive owner regarding a specific challenge/outcome.
Let’s imagine you are talking to the VP Desktop Services – sounds a bit boring and „commodity“ at first sight. But we can easily draw a big picture, a vision, which covers mobile strategy, collaboration and unified communication all together, focused on the design and the architecture of a compelling future workplace. So, we act as a strategic partner, we are focused on the customer’s desired outcome. We challenge him/her in a positive way, we share insights, we communicate value. Now, he/she will look at the challenge in a different way. Maybe, even the customer’s desired outcome will change.

Tailored value propositions:
When the customer got the entire scope of challenge and impact, we can continue with building a more detailed future vision and develop together a high-level big picture of a solution – with the focus to define the customer’s desired outcome more precisely. We are still engaging the role of the executive owner, but we also address the different impacted stakeholders. These different stakeholders might have different challenges and perspectives, because their success is measured differently depending on their different roles. So, they will decide what’s valuable for them.
Now, we work with different value propositions tailored to different stakeholder roles. We might keep a strong focus on the desired outcomes, to make sure that we drive urgency and importance at the same time to avoid a „no decision“ situation. The best way to do that is to show that the current state is really uncomfortable and that the future state is a much better place to achieve the desired outcomes. The transformation into the future state has to be based on a step-by-step approach in a way, that the future state is perceived much better compared to the current state/pain, the related invest and the general and individual risks all together.

Then – hopefully we got it! The executive owner decided to take action! Let’s celebrate that for a moment. We have communicated value and – apparently – already created value, because the executive owner was now able to make a decision to move forward – coming from a situation where the problem and/or the impact as well as the question on how to achieve the desired outcomes were not completely clear.

So, value creation took place in two dimensions: First, we enabled the executive owner to make a decision to change the current state and we enabled him/her to sell the vision and the project internally in a successful way. Second, we created value internally for our own pipeline, we developed a lead to an opportunity – „selling internally“

This stage is also a critical moment. Why? Because the executive owners have a tendency to delegate the project now within their teams to another person who is now responsible to run the buying process.

Unique value messages:
Now we should evolve our messaging into unique value messages for each of the impacted stakeholders. That’s based on a prerequisite – having a competitive strategy. Important here is to decide on the strategy regarding the competition but to remain focused on working with the customer’s stakeholders – don’t allow anybody to shift the focus to competitors. The key to success in this phase is to enable the buying team to make the best decision on how to achieve their desired business outcomes. That means to enable this team to sell the project internally to prepare a positive decision.
In parallel, we have to adjust the unique value messages for internal purposes, to get the different delivery units and the internal legal and commercial managers on the same page, to get their buy-in, to persuade them with a compelling business case which helps both partners to achieve their business outcomes.
Selling internally is an own journey in parallel …
If the customer makes a buy-decision in favor of us, we know that we were pretty successful along the entire customer’s journey with our messaging. The value at this stage is already a co-creation because we created value for the customer AND for our own organization in terms of a win-win case – to enable the customer to decide for us and to enable our organization to make a „Go“ decision for this customer-outcome based project.

Value implementation and communication:
Now, many sales people declare victory too early (order entry is booked!) and aren’t focused on the last phase of the customer’s journey any more. But this is the most important one to make the customer’s journey successful, which means that they can achieve their desired outcomes – and ours as well. Also, our contract might depend on the customer’s outcomes – if we are really serious and consequent in terms of outcome scenarios. We have to deliver, we have to implement the value we communicated, exchanged and created so far – step by step, phase by phase, as outlined before. The customer will also have to take actions, but the biggest part will be the vendor’s responsibility.
Attention – there will be different time frames between the implementation of technology and the achieved business outcomes! Imagine an outsourcing scenario, the desired business outcomes will take some time…
If we achieved all that, let’s not forget this final step – to communicate the co-created and now implemented value accordingly. First, to the stakeholders running the project day-by-day. Second, to the executive owner, the person we started the project in the very beginning. If we take this step seriously, we have a great chance to hear more about upcoming challenges, potential future opportunities, served on a silver platter…

What’s the necessary foundation for value co-creation, for real outcome selling like this? A selling system designed from the outside to the inside, a clear statement that both the vendor and the customer consider this relationship as strategic, based on a collaborative partnership with a strong commitment to achieve the outcomes of both partners.

What are your thoughts on value creation and value co-creation?
What do you think about the outcome selling approach?

Chime in and share your thoughts!

Engaging With Executive Buyers – Why We Need A GoToCustomer Approach

Do we really need a GoToCustomer approach, do we really need to design our selling systems consequently from the outside to the inside?
“Does it really matter to the customer what approach you use?” was one of the questions that occurred in one of the LinkedIn sales enablement groups, inspired by one of my recent blog posts. I answered, yes, I do believe that it matters and I will write a blog post on that topic.

The other day, I had a sales conversation with a small vendor focused on messaging and sales trainings. As a sales enablement executive, I was of course interested in having a first call. So, I had a call with the company’s founder and a sales person.
Here is what happened:

After nice initial hellos, we started. The founder said, he would like to show me “only a few slides” on the company and their services. Why not, they will hopefully practice what they preach, I thought. So, I agreed. But presenting “only a few slides” turned out to be an overkill of many slides and a twenty minutes (!) monologue about the vendor, the company, their services and their references.
I interrupted once, because the references he presented were of no relevance and of no value for our business. Unfortunately, my intervention didn’t bother him. Apparently the sales person wasn’t allowed to say anything. Instead, the founder continued with his pitch and mentioned how awesome it would be to have someone with my role on the phone.
What would you say? Horrible or hilarious or both?
Inside-out pushing continued. Listening didn’t happen. Questioning was apparently out of their scope.

I checked my watch, decided to focus on inhaling and exhaling. I would have a very hard stop…  In parallel, I was wondering why they didn’t try to make this call a success – to make it valuable for me ? Then, the person stopped talking after more than twenty minutes and asked me (the first question!) if these services were valuable for me?

Now that’s funny. This person didn’t ask me a single question on our challenges, goals and initiatives, pushed his general broadcast messages to me without knowing my specific role and responsibility. Of course, I couldn’t give him a positive feedback, because I couldn’t recognize any value for my specific business challenges. Not that he accepted that statement, he asked for a follow-up. Less politely than before, I said: “What kind of a follow-up for what reason?”

Here is a note to all vendors of trainings, coachings and sales consultants:
I really love working with you, especially if you are as passionate as I am regarding how to create more value, how to increase performance, how to make the sales profession a value creating discipline for our customers. And I love to challenge my views and your views in order to create the best approach for a certain challenge. BUT please understand this:
If you don’t practice what you preach, why should I or anybody else believe in your services?
We all know that there are no silver bullets and we all know that “one size fits all approaches” don’t work in our complex world. To make a call valuable for us executive buyers, you should not only be prepared regarding our roles and responsibilities, you should also be able to map your services to our specific challenges. It’s an effort of translation, to show us not only what your services do but what they could mean for us in terms of our business outcomes.  It’s as simple as that.

Everything happens for a reason: We can learn a lot from that call:

  • The design point of that pitch was the vendor’s own portfolio, not the prospect in his/her specific situation. I was feeling pushed.
  • The content they shared was focused on what the services were all about and what they would do, but not what they could mean in terms of business outcomes.
  • These vendor’s services should be sold using references, which is actually a good idea, if the references are relevant to the prospect, which was not the case.
  • The customer’s problem solving journey or buying cycle was not considered, not prepared and not addressed with questions.
  • Value regarding my role and responsibility: The call didn’t give me the feeling, that they wanted to create specific value regarding my specific role and challenges. Instead, I had the feeling, they wanted to sell me their stuff.

What we learn here is that a static approach from the inside to the outside, based on the vendor’s portfolio mapped to an unspecified prospect, which was in that case an executive buyer, is not successful at all. These are all characteristics of a classical GoToMarket approach, with many above mentioned vendor-internal design points.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we don’t need GoToMarket models. We need them to derive a portfolio of services and products based on a vendor’s unique capabilities, to define standardized modules, to design messages for a broad audience and for general buyer roles. But a GoToMarket model isn’t meant to address specific selling situations regarding different roles and different stages along the customer’s journey. But that’s exactly why we need a GoToCustomer approach.
A prospecting call or any other customer meeting should be designed for specific buyer roles and responsibilities and for a certain stage along their customer’s journey. Based on these customer design points, the value messages can be tailored and the vendor’s capabilities can be mapped to their specific challenges. That’s what a GoToCustomer approach is all about. Making the customer the design point will simplify your entire selling system instead of being focused on several internal design points.
Then, define simple sales milestones which are mapped to the customer’s journey, for instance:

  • Get appropriate access
  • Having successful meetings with stakeholders
  • Create a shared vision of success
  • Create a win/win business case, create proposal

Every thousand miles journey starts with one step in the right direction. Why not taking this one?
These six questions cover relevance, context and timeliness. Some can be answered, others might lead to the right questions on the call:

  • What could be the prospect’s problem/challenge/pain point?
  • How does the prospect might want to move forward?
  • Who could be the executive stakeholder and who could be impacted stakeholders?
  • Why could that be a challenge, right now?
  • When should the problem be solved? Think about technology and business impact!
  • Where is the prospect along his own journey? Brainstorming or before making a decision?

That’s the first phase, MODEL. Then, think about how to MAP your services and capabilities to this “modeled” situation – and then design your value messages, MATCH!

Successful selling!

Interested in research on that topic?
Here is an interesting document from Forrester Research.

GoToCustomer Approaches – Working From The Outside To The Inside

GoToMarket and GoToCustomer approaches – You might remember these terms in previous blog posts. Now, let’s discuss them.

Let’s get started with a quotation from Lawrence G. Friedman: “The success of every go-to-market decision you make, indeed your ability to make smart go-to-market decisions at all, depends on how well you understand your customers. Their specific needs must shape and define your products and services.”

If so, is “GoToMarket” always the right term? Let’s have a look at traditional GoToMarket models, often established in the industrial age. What’s their main characteristic? They are built on internal design points, such as the product and service portfolios, or the delivery capacities in different regions. How does the customer fit into these strategies? Often only in a geographic way. That’s how we were looking at our customers for a long time, right?

Now, the world has changed fundamentally. The transformation into the 21st century, into the information age is in progress. I think, we just started to understand what it could actually mean.
Our customers, at least our most important ones, are now everywhere, they are operating on a global basis.

Those of you, who are aware of my previous blog posts, might remember that I often mentioned the customer as design point. Some of you might have thought „But that’s what I’m doing all day long“.

Let me use a few examples to illustrate what I mean by „the customer as design point.“:

  • How does your sales process look like? Is it a selling process or is it a customer value creation process? How did you map your process to the customer’s problem solving process or did you just use the customer’s journey and did you just map your internal gates to it? What are these gates, you refer to? Gates, that are defined from a customer interaction’s point of view?
  • How do you look at your customers? However your sales model might look like, I’m sure you don’t treat your customers all the same. Which criteria do you use to distinguish between different customer segments? Do you consider financial KPI’s and additional growth and potential criteria – from your point of view? Or do you develop customer driven criteria as well, to distinguish between strategic and non-strategic accounts? Shouldn’t they have the same view on their strategic relevance?
  • How do you organize your sales trainings? What’s the design point? Portfolio elements, specific sales units, industries or accounts, specific sales roles or all that together? Or do you organize them also by buyer roles/personas, their role-specific challenges and specific selling situations?
  • How do you organize your sales content? Is your content first and foremost organized by your portfolio or also by customer challenges, buyer roles, specific selling situation as e.g. first meeting with CIO, financial industry, target is to get access regarding the optimization of their application management landscape?
  • Ho do you organize your demand generation programs?

So, you get the point… The bottom line of all these examples is actually:

“Do you use inside-out or outside-in criteria to design certain your selling system?

Isn’t it all about our own perspective, how we look at the challenges we have to master, with which principles? Do we still use an inside-out perspective, as the industrial age told us? Or did we already switch to outside-in criteria, adapting the challenges of the information age?

Honestly, do the customers care about us and our internal design points? Now, they care about how we can make them more successful. To do that, we have to use their view, and we have to collaborate, as already addressed in a previous blog post.

So, how should we organize ourselves to create value for our customers, using a GoToCustomer approach, defined like this:
“A GoToCustomer is an outside-in approach with a few main criteria:
System’s perspective, End2end view, customers and their journey as design point, simplicity as design principle and collaboration as core foundation.”

Now, how to make the customer as design point more executable? Do you remember the 4 marketing P’s? That was last century, in the middle of the industrial age: Product, place, promotion and price.

What do they have in common? Exactly, they are all derived from an internal view point.

Let’s have a look at these 4P’s (thanks to Forrester’s Scott Santucci, who used these 4 P’s during his key note at this year’s Forrester Sales Enablement Forum in San Francisco):

  • Problem instead of product means to focus on a specific customer problem or challenge, a certain buyer role is responsible for and has to solve it
  • Patterns instead of place means to focus on common patterns for how customers with those specific problems should think about solving them
  • Path instead of promotion means: In order to solve today’s complex problems, people need to define a phased path to get there. So it’s about defining the right steps in the right direction to solve a customer’s problem
  • Proof instead of price means how to help a customer to sell a project internally, to help the customer to build a story how the patterns and the path will produce the expected results, in a joint, collaborative approach.

You see, these P’s are all derived from the customer’s perspective, they are outside-in. So, let’s see how these P’s can help you to design a GoToCustomer approach using the above mentioned GoToCustomer principles – always based on the customer’s journey and a buyer persona model. Also, you need to know the typical challenges and comfort zones of your sales force, depending on different products or services. Where are their relationships typically? IT management or lines of business? What are their typical challenges? Getting the right access or are the typical challenges e.g. to develop a shared vision of success?

Let’s take an example, how to design a demand generation program which considers e.g. the lines of business as the typical executive owner for e.g. mobile collaboration services. Now, you would analyze these stakeholder problems, challenges and patterns. You would design trigger criteria to identify all accounts that should be part of the program in different waves. You would design dynamic sales messages along the customer’s journey and you would consider the specific challenges your sales force might have, which could be different in different regions or industries.

The bottom line is, you would work consequently (!) from the outside to the inside, end2end, and not the other way around. To make that pretty clear:
It happens very often, that a program is designed from the inside-out and then it’s mapped to the customer’s journey in the middle of the process to be able to add some customer-driven value messages or tools. „No problem, I add a few customer-driven value propositions.“

You can do so, but that’s exactly how it feels for the sellers and for the customers – as something recently added, but still on the same old chassis, not really considering the customer’s journey.

So, why not redesign the whole chassis? Why not change our perspective and redesign selling systems, which will lead to buyer enablement?

It’s all about our perspective.

From Sales Enablement To Buyer Enablement

From SE To BEThe more I’m working on that fantastic and challenging topic and the more I’m discussing the term „sales enablement“ with peers, the more I’m wondering – is this always the right term?

You might be surprised „What a question, of course it is the right term! We have to enable our sales force to deliver better results, to grow, to be more effective, more efficient“, and so on.

Wait a minute; let’s recap the “why” and “what” of sales enablement. The “why” is a pretty obvious – traditional function-oriented inside-out approaches are no longer working – something is broken. The “what” is described in many ways, also here in one of my earlier blog posts. However, it’s definitely not about creating more content and more trainings and throwing all of that over the fence to the sales force – won’t be successful.
Sales enablement, processed in a meaningful and valuable way, is quite the contrary!

Here are some key elements:

  • SE is a system’s approach, a strategic, ongoing discipline, which covers the whole selling system in an end2end way

  • SE’s mission is to bridge the gap between strategy and execution by engineering the right selling models according to the business strategy based on outside-in oriented GoToCustomer approaches.

  • SE’ foundation is collaboration as a core principle across the whole selling system, within sales teams, with partners and with customers. The goal of collaboration is to achieve better results. It impacts strategy, processes and IT, inside and outside of the organization.
  • SE’s specific topics are across the selling system are e.g. sales model, selling methodologies and strategies based on your sales segments, integrated end2end lead and opportunity management from prospect to contract, account management best practices, sales content/messaging, knowledge and collaboration platforms, trainings/learning’s (what and how), engagement models tailored to buyer roles and of course, performance metrics.

Here are the goals:

  • SE’s goals are to enable all client-facing people to have meaningful conversations that are valuable for customers to solve their problems, to master their challenges and to drive their desired outcomes.

  • SE’s impact is to improve the performance of the whole selling system regarding efficiency and growth.

So far so good. A lot of things to do, many challenges to master, which require a lot of leadership, communication, collaboration, change and adoption and of course a strong senior executive buy-in. It’s always a journey.

Now, let’s think about the term „sales enablement“! If you should find a headline for sales enablement regarding the purpose and what all the different fields of actions, we considered above, could have in common, what would it be?

Isn’t that all about scalable selling efficiency? What’s the bottom line of all these topics, which are mentioned above? They are focused on the vendor’s organizations, on process integration and performance, on connecting the dots across the selling systems. Calling that “sales enablement” makes sense.

But something has changed in parallel, right? Some organizations already changed the design point from an internal one such as the own product and service portfolio to an external – the customer and their challenges and problems.

Why is that so important? Because the customers don’t care about our products, they only care about how to solve their own problems and how to achieve their desired outcomes. So, there is a translation required – mapping own capabilities to the specific buyer’s challenges.

Let’s rephrase that: We are talking about sales enablement, and then we changed our design point to the customer. So, sales is an internal function, the buyer, the clients are outside, right? Establishing the term „selling system“ was the first step in the right direction, because we can only be successful in the future, if we collaborate successfully across the functional silos – that’s why I mentioned collaboration as a mandatory core principle. But what about collaboration with partners and customers?

What’s the next level, which builds on the layer of scalable selling efficiency?
Scalable efficiency is pretty much focused on strategy, structure, process and performance. We need that, no doubt, it’s a very important foundation. Getting all these elements right, you can build a selling system which is very efficient in a scalable way.

But does that make any difference? Probably not, but it’s a necessary foundation for greater success.

What about people, and what about culture and how do we want to interact with our customers in the next decades and which skills are required to master these century’s challenges? We need people’s passion at work, their full creative potential, we need much more meaning, more focus on valuable outcomes for our customers instead of more outputs.

Outputs were part of the industrial age, outcomes are information age key elements.
Sounds simple, but it’s not – not at all.

That’s about the big picture. What does that mean for sales enablement, what’s next, how do we need to evolve the discipline?

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
Alvin Toffler

Unlearn and relearn. Now, it’s now about people and culture, about how do we equip and coach people to unlearn and to relearn. What do we really need to change from last century’s push behavior towards a smarter, pull-oriented behavior (which does not mean being reactive!)?

Unlearn the „product push muscle memory“, the attitude to pitch a product, to focus more on outputs as activities and check lists than on value-creating outcomes.

Relearn is all about what it really means to work customer-centric, to help a client to achieve their desired outcomes – which can also mean to challenge a client in a positive, in a collaborative way. It’s about how we share new insights with them on a business level; make them thinking on their challenges from a different perspective to show them how a certain solution could help them to achieve their desired outcomes?

From my point of view, we have to establish a learning organization, based on collaboration in many dimensions, with a culture of scalable learning. I mean different layers of learning, e.g. basic learning’s, individual coaching , tailored learning’s within smaller groups, where certain people are coached from a few high performers – a platform to share tribal knowledge, e.g. how to sell cloud services in a meaningful and valuable way (we won’t make no difference if we try to sell different cloud operating models, but we could make a difference if we would show a customer how to create new cloud based business models – next level of value creation).

Leadership based on storytelling might be a prerequisite… to touch people’s hearts, not only their minds.

That’s no longer selling and trying harder as well-known for decades, it’s more how to challenge and enable buyers to help them to make their best decision to solve their problems and to drive their desired outcomes – that’s what I call a value-creation engine!

Couldn’t buyer enablement be a great term for this next level, based on scalable learning?

It could be a consequent next step, which requires a foundation of scalable selling efficiency, what we should achieve with sales enablement in the first place.

Additionally, successful buyer enablement will only happen, if an organization is pretty clear on the why, on the meaning, why does the organization exist. Without meaning and mission, what should I learn and why should I change?

Organizations that have a meaning, that deliver extraordinary value for customers will achieve growth and profit – but as a result, never as a purpose.
Apple is the best example.

It’s not only me – there are a few peers thinking about the term sales enablement and buyer enablement. Have a look at this excellent blog post on enablement, written by Michael Fox: The 21st Century Sales Warrior.

What are your thoughts?

I’m looking forward to start a challenging discussion!