June 30, 2008

Establishing Meaningful Outcomes

In the last message, we discussed the impact and importance of solving a customer’s problems. By focusing on the impact of these results, customers can then become inspired to make a decision because they are more aware that the problems they face are actually worth solving.

So how do you find out which results actually matter to the client? Are they solely financial? Technical? Social? A combination of these and several more? That is your ultimate goal, to establish all levels of outcomes a client deems as most meaningful.

If the customer doesn’t get that the problem your proposal addresses is real and you are providing a significant potential payoff for the organization, then run for the exit. You’re wasting your time.

People buy to meet their needs or solve their problems. To get them to buy from you instead of your competitors, you need to broadcast a clear, compelling value proposition over a channel they’ll be sure to hear: WII-FM.

What is WII-FM? A radio station? Actually, no, it’s a receiver located inside everyone’s head that guides the decision making process, translation - What’s In It For Me?

When your offer is delivered, customers want to see that it produces positive business impact. They may be seeking goals such as improving financial performance, increasing market share, retaining more customers, advancing the technical infrastructure, automating a labor-intensive process, or even complying with regulatory standards. It’s your job to identify these goals and then link your value proposition to them.

Ineffective sales messages focus on information about your company, your products, or your services; however, effective messages provide answers to these four basic questions decision makers typically ask:

1. Is this really what we need?

2. Will it have a positive impact on our business?

3. Can this vendor deliver the products or services on time and on budget?

4. Are we getting good value for our money, particularly considering the probable impact on our business?

By consistently returning to these core concerns as you deliver your sales message and keeping the customer tuned in to WII-FM, you can remain on that sales frequency.

So where’s the best place to get insight into what outcomes the client desires? From the client, of course. Try these questions: What kinds of results are you seeking? How will you measure success? Are there key performance indicators that you will monitor to determine whether you’re getting the right results? When you did similar projects in the past, how did you measure success? How will managers in other areas of the company know that this project was a success?

In the private sector, clients often measure success in financial terms. They seek increased revenue, greater profitability, a bigger market share, reduced headcount, lower cost of operations, budgetary compliance, and so on. For government agencies and nonprofits, financial return is likely to be less compelling than fulfilling the mission for which the organization exists—improving time on station for a particular weapon system, increasing diversity among graduate students, or reducing recidivism rates among parolees.

Two other areas of performance are frequently important. Customers often seek technical outcomes or infrastructure improvements. For example, getting disparate information systems to share data across mixed platforms might not increase revenues, but it will make the IT infrastructure work more efficiently. Likewise, achieving compliance with the requirements of Sarbanes-Oxley might not increase market share, but it might keep your CEO from costly and time consuming legal challenges.

The other area of performance is one we might call “social outcomes” such as reducing attrition among middle managers, increasing customer loyalty, or even developing a stronger relationship with suppliers or resellers.

Clearly, there’s a lot of overlap among financial, technical, and social goals. The point is to make sure we look at all to maintain a three-dimensional view of outcomes.

When the client sees a big payoff from different levels, he or she is much more eager to hear about your solution.

That’s why Sant’s clients get so excited about our messages on improving proposal processes and content. Sant Suite delivers a compelling, measurable improvement in financial, technical, and social terms. Call us, we’re tuned in and ready to deliver the right results for your organization.

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