Focus on World-Class, Part 1: Solutions Aligned to Needs

In this 12-part series, each post examines one of the 12 best practices identified in the 2017 CSO Insights World-Class Sales Practices Report. Today’s best practice: “Our salespeople consistently and effectively articulate a solution that is aligned to the customer’s needs.”

In professional selling, we have come a long way. The industrial age was about mass marketing: product, place, promotion, and price. Product pitches sounded like “this is what our product is.” Then, selling solutions and services became more and more important. Selling was no longer only “this is what our product/solution/service is.” It evolved into “this is what our product/solution/service does.”

Customers don’t care about products, they care about value

Both approaches are designed from the inside to the outside. That means they are both centered on what a vendor has to sell, not what a customer wants to buy. This is a huge difference, because buyers actually don’t buy the products you sell. What they buy is the value they can achieve with your products, solutions, and services. Value can mean many different things to different customers. Some want to see cost savings in their IT, others want to see the impact of a solution on their overall EBIT performance program. Others customers want to achieve a growth goal in a new market, while others want to reduce their SG&A (selling, general and administrative) expenses. And the list goes on.

All of these value perceptions have two things in common:

  • First, professional selling in the age of the customer is all about being relevant and creating value along the entire customer’s journey for each buyer involved in the purchase decision.
  • Second, professional selling is now all about translating product, service or solution capabilities into the customer’s desired value categories, along their entire customer’s journey

World-Class performers focus consistently on a customer-centric, how-to-sell approach and achieve double-digit improvements regarding win rate and quota attainment

Our 2017 CSO Insights World-Class Sales Practices Report has identified the practices World-Class performers use collectively and consistently. We mapped a set of more than sixty organizational and individual practices to the key sales performance metrics. This mapping identified 12 practices that impact between five and seven of these metrics (revenue plan attainment, quota attainment, win, loss and no-decision rates, etc.). In a second step, we looked at our study participants that collectively and consistently practiced at least 10 of these 12 practices and put them into a sub-segment we call World-Class. In a third step, we analyzed the performance metrics of our newly formed World-Class segment:

  • Quota attainment: 69.8% (world-class) versus 53.0% (all respondents).
  • Win rates: 57.0% (world-class) versus 46.9% (all respondents).

Our salespeople consistently and effectively articulate a solution that is aligned to the customer’s needs

World-Class performers focus on 12 practices that all correlate significantly with sales success. In the coming weeks, we are introducing these Top 12 practices here on our CSO Insights blog. One key practice is to consistently and effectively articulate solutions that are aligned to the customer’s needs. I have already shared the background of this practice in the beginning of this article.

Here are the requirements for sales force enablement to establish this practice as the new normal across the sales force:

  • First, the customer’s journey has to be mapped to the internal process chain from marketing to sales to service to ensure that key events and decisions on the customer’s sides are equally reflected in the internal process chain.
  • Second, it requires a customer-centered sales methodology to be integrated into your process landscape.
  • Third, it requires connected content and training services to ensure that salespeople have the right value messages available for different buyer roles tailored to the customer journey phases. And based on this value messaging, training services have to be added to ensure an adequate skill development across the sales force. Content alone does not lead to skilled salespeople who are fluent with new value messaging.
  • Frontline sales managers have to coach along those lines to drive adoption and reinforcement.


World-Class sales performance doesn’t happen by accident. It requires your entire sales force enablement engine to be designed along the customer’s journey, addressing your sales force’s particular challenges. But sales force enablement cannot just add the customer’s perspective on the last mile. The customer’s perspective has to be incorporated in your selling system.

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