Messages that Matter: Question 3—What results does the customer seek?

 

Posted By Dr. Tom Sant | Aug 02, 2012

 

7 Key Questions to Answer When Writing a "Killer" Sales Proposal

As you may recall, we've been discussing the seven questions you need to be able to answer to write a client-centered proposal. Here they are:

  1. What is the client’s problem or need?
  2. Why is this problem worth solving?
  3. What results does the customer seek?
  4. Which specific result is the most important?
  5. What products or services can we offer that will solve the problem and deliver the right results?
  6. Of the solutions I can offer, which one is the best fit for this client?
  7. Why are we the right choice?

We've already discussed the first two questions as a vehicle for understanding the customer's need or problem. Now let's move on to an equally important issue: what are they looking for in terms of outcomes?

What Results Does the Customer Seek?

First, what are results? We can define them as the impact our services or solutions have on the customer’s organization. Sometimes a desirable result is simply the elimination of a problem, but compelling value usually comes from a solution that goes beyond merely solving the problem to delivering important improvements. Understood in that sense, results are improvements in an organization’s ability to achieve its objectives and function efficiently and profitably.

People are usually looking for results in three core areas of performance. For the sake of convenience, we can call these strategic, tactical, and social.

Strategic

Strategic results are typically manifested in the traditional financial metrics that businesses use to track how they're doing—profit margin, cash flow, cost of goods sold, cost of operations, market share, shareholder value, and so on. Strategic value is often measured in monetary terms but not exclusively.

Tactical

Tactical results are shown via improvements in operational performance or enhancements to the infrastructure. For example, a customer's goal might be to reduce the amount of manual effort required to complete a task, or to gather more data about visitors to the company's website, or to reduce downtime.

Although not core measures of business performance, these results will show whether their specific efforts are paying off. A client might track tactical goals in terms of reduced headcount, improved quality metrics, enhanced compliance with regulatory or other standards, or enhanced productivity (as measured by throughput or volume).

Social

Social outcomes are primarily associated with improving relationships. They can be directed either internally or externally.

Internal social results involve employees and might address such factors as improving morale, reducing turnover, increasing the professionalism of the company’s sales representatives, raising awareness among all employees on issues of diversity, and so forth.

External social outcomes might focus on relationships outside the company, such as those with customers or suppliers. A client might desire an enhanced corporate reputation, a higher level of customer satisfaction, an increased percentage of return business from current customers, reduced employee absenteeism, or a reduced carbon footprint. Social goals involving suppliers might include supplier certification, integration of data systems, or development of long-term contracts.

The Individual

By the way, there is a fourth area of outcomes that a client might seek in addition to strategic, tactical and social/political results: individual gain. This area includes all the outcomes that affect the decision maker's own career, income, or prestige. Here we are asking what the individual decision maker wants to achieve on a personal level such as a promotion, a bonus, or increased responsibility.

Naturally, human beings sometimes have their own personal interests in mind when they make buying decisions on behalf of their company and usually there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, in well-run organizations, senior managers try to align the company's goals with the individual employee's goals so that no one feels that he or she is working at cross purposes to their own interests. However, personal value usually needs to be addressed outside the realm of a formal proposal.

If you are seeking strategic, tactical or even social results in the areas of sales enablement and proposal automation, do we have some good news for you!

The Qvidian suite of products has been proven to improve business results (increased win rates), improve operational efficiency (dramatic reductions in time) and increase team morale (a key social goal). And when all three kinds of goals line up around one solution, that's the definition of competitive advantage.

Subscribe Today for Even More

Subscribe to Messages That Matter, Dr. Tom Sant's award-winning email newsletter, designed to help improve your business communication skills and proposal writing.