Randy Perry Nancy Selig
Vice President Vice President
Business Value Strategy Practice Interactive Platforms Services
In our previous post, we outlined 5 best practices for elevating your sales and marketing dialogue with customers and prospects, which we will expand upon over the next several weeks. Our post today further describes Best Practice #1: focus on business outcomes.
Focusing on business outcomes sounds straightforward yet it doesn’t just happen. Here are three key strategies to help the process along. First, talk to the business buyers about the outcomes they themselves hope to achieve. Second, link your products and services to their specific outcomes. And third, quantify the results.
For the business buyers, the key message they want to hear is about outcomes. They really don’t care about what IT does. What they want to know is how IT can help their business.
Elevating your conversation begins with identifying which business outcomes are both important to your audience and can be affected by your products and services. This requires new and different ways of thinking about how your products and services impact the business. If you’re used to talking about how your products and services can enhance staff productivity, you’ve got to shift your thinking to how your products and services impact innovation. Perhaps you’ve touted how your products and services help IT get their own services up and running faster within the company; if so, you’ll need to consider how that speed is going to impact agility at the company.
In effect, all these shifts in thinking come down to changing your conversation. The goal in doing so is to elevate your customers’ perception of you and ultimately position yourself as a strategic partner. These are key elements that you want to think about from the beginning – focus on how you can talk to your customer in a different way, and how to translate the IT performance of products and services into how they impact these business outcomes.
And finally, there’s the need to quantify these business outcomes. Over the last couple years, we’ve interviewed thousands of companies regarding their buying practices associated with digital transformation. Research with these buyers indicates that businesses are more and more dependent on IT. The average percent of revenue growth relying on IT has more than tripled over the last two years. Customers like numbers. Everyone understands the power and value of data particularly when big data and artificial intelligence are involved. Since digital transformation is a strategy measured by business outcomes, we must find ways to quantify the impact on those business outcomes in a way that’s meaningful. The big issues that companies face – revenue growth, agility, and innovation among others – are going to drive buying decisions. And in interviews, representatives cited the ability to make decisions faster and more accurately as quantifiable. Such decisions apply to revenue growth, increasing profit margins, reducing the time to market for new products, and reducing operating costs – all significant business metrics.
Talk to the IT Folks
It’s important to note that the interviews were conducted among mostly high-level IT people who answered questions about business outcomes, an ability due to their working relationship with business stakeholders. If you’re typically in conversations with high-level IT folks who are your primary customer point of contact, business outcomes are a relevant topic for discussion. Don’t wait to have these conversations with business leaders as you may not have ready access to them. Speak with the IT people about how your products and services can drive their business outcomes, and you’ll be on your way to changing the conversation.
If you haven’t thought about how your products and services can drive results for the business, now is the time to do so. Find a link between what your products do and the outcomes your customers are looking for — this is critical to drive your own business going forward.
Randy Perry is vice president of IDC’s Business Value Strategy Practice, and Nancy Selig is research vice president of IDC’s Interactive Platform Services.