As a CIO, the only “Products” I ever bought cost $299 or less and got some user or department off my back by providing them with some helpful utility. More importantly, I never,ever, ever bought a Solution!
Yes. Everything that your marketing and sales enablement teams have been telling you isn’t exactly true. Surprise! Most of those “solution” methodologies miss the mark if you take them purely at face value.
Stunned Silence? So what do IT and Business Unit leaders actually buy from a vendor? There is relationship, security, relief from pain etc. .. but what we really buy are .. results and outcomes.
In case you think I am playing with words, let me explain.
Many years ago I needed to make my programmers more productive, so we did the usual thing. That was build an RFP with our wish list, and send it out to 4-5 vendors with a really tight deadline for responses. The vendors all whined and complained, the smart ones got on the phone with some of my department heads, and the RFPS were submitted. The next week we paraded the vendors in for their pitches .. five of them .. so that by the end of the week our brains and our behinds were numb. Fortunately I had smart people working for me, they created an Excel score sheet, and voila!! Vendor #1 had a score of 73 points, Vendor #2 had 71, and the rest were in the mid to low sixties. Technically there wasn’t that much to choose between vendor #1 and #2, although #1 had a few more features and functions.
I had to make a decision – and chose Vendor #2, despite the lower score. Why? Two reasons – firstly I felt they had done a much better job of discovery, and secondly they didn’t try to sell me a solution that made my programmers 39.2% more productive. The sales team was smart and sold me an outcome. The back story is that my company was coming out with a new product, and that IT was on the critical path as we couldn’t reprogram our internal systems fast enough to support the launch. We would delay by a month, and that would cost us $8,000,000. I was also tired of going to executive meetings about the project and having the finger of shame pointed at me. Enough! So the outcome the sales team from Vendor #2 sold me was that of accelerating development by 5 weeks so that we could launch in time and gain an additional $8m in revenue, PLUS .. my IT department was no longer holding things up and my political risk disappeared in the executive suite. Sweet indeed.The solution was software and processes that would make my programming staff more productive (as I’d said I want them to be more productive). But the result was those magical five weeks and some major political clout.
A more mundane example is this .. an aspirin is the solution to a headache (a literal pain!), yet what I am really buying is relief from pain – the outcome is a clear head. Don't sell aspirin (and especially don't talk about dosage levels, uptake values and side effects to a man with a bad headache).So what do you sell – products, solutions, or results and outcomes?