The strongest growth trajectory comes not from marketing or sales but from customer success.
Mark Roberge, HubSpot’s CRO during the company’s ride from $0 to $100M, put it this way: “We started with our ideal customer outcome in mind.”
In a recent conversation, Mark explained. “We answered the question ‘what is a good lead?’ by looking at customer success and asking which customers had the highest lifetime value and what motivated them to buy.”
Most teams fail to use their customer outcomes to qualify and engage new buyers. Outcome-driven growth takes team collaboration and coordination across Customer Success, Marketing, and Sales, but it is well worth the effort.
Here are three steps to fully leverage your customer outcomes.
Step 1: Identify Outcomes in Your Customer’s Voice
Companies often brand themselves around their most prestigious clients in their target market touting “we work with Harvard” or “we work with Amazon.” However, all markets are in reality micro-segmented. While a potential buyer may be impressed by your company’s work with top brands, what they really want to hear about is how you have worked with peer organizations and the specific ways you’ve helped their peers with goal achievement.
Your customer success team becomes a strategic growth driver when it looks beyond individual customer renewal and incremental upsells to focus on capturing your customer’s voice in each key market segment you serve.
Capturing your customer’s voice means asking your buyer to tell you the goals and pains that led them to buy and the key gains or outcomes they have experienced as a result. Usually, by the time you have talked to three or four top customers in a segment, the pattern is pretty clear.
Customer outcomes can be emotional, organizational or financial. What really matters is that you are capturing your customer’s specific words and use cases because this is the language that will feel most authentic to other buyers in the same market segment.
Conversations on customer outcomes fit naturally into the customer success workflow, but also can easily be led by marketing or sales team members with strong customer connections.
To structure customer conversations to learn about outcomes, you can devise a simple call formula which asks some background questions and then asks some targeted questions about different gain areas. Here are some sample questions to consider:
- Can you share the primary reasons you started to work with us?
- Where in your organization is our service/solution most in use? Any reasons for that?
- What are the biggest pains we have helped remove from your or your team’s workday?
- Are there any gaps we removed or reduced that you really needed addressed to do your job?
- Are there any ways our partnership has helped make you a hero to your team?
- Are there any outcomes or improvements resulting from our partnership that would get your VP’s, CEO’s or leadership’s attention?
- Could we build an ROI case together?
- What is a 1% to 2% improvement on the goal you targeted for our partnership worth in increased revenue or decreased cost?
Step 2: Allow Buyers to Self-Qualify Through Marketing Interaction
Good value discovery is not isolated to sales, but happens throughout the buyer journey in each buyer interaction. One of the key benefits of writing down our customer voice and capturing key outcomes is the ability for marketing to use this lens to directly qualify buyers around the things that drive buying behavior.
Buyers in the early discovery phase of their buying journey are typically reviewing company websites, checking out peer or competitor review sites and engaging with outreach emails. They are making a decision on whether to commit to an initial discovery call or not. Buyers in this phase have a very short attention span and mostly want quick insights. Their main focus is to understand one question: “Does this vendor have a solution that advances one of my key goals or resolves one of my key challenges?”
In either case, they are looking specifically at your buyer outcomes. Details about your product, the competitive strengths of your features and function set relative to other alternatives, or even deep dive case studies of success with other clients can all just create noise until this basic question around resolving a goal or challenge is answered.
Clearly specified buyer outcomes make it possible to lead marketing and prospecting campaigns with questions around a buyer’s unfulfilled goals or targeted gains to invite a value-added conversation. Content marketing comes in a wide variety of formats, including case studies, white papers, blogs, webinars, research-based buyer insights, videos, press releases, social media feeds, sell sheets, sales decks, content-rich website use cases and targeted lists of peer clients by market segment. Each type of content can provide evidence on how a company helps a buyer to achieve their goals.
Buyers that have consumed marketing content rich with a discussion of buyer outcomes are much more qualified and come to a discovery meeting with a member of the sales team ready to use everyone’s time well.
Step 3: Help Buyers Define Crisp, Outcome-Based Payoff Statements
The real goal of all buyer value discovery during a sales call is to get to a strong payoff statement. A good payoff statement captures in two-to-three sentences the targeted buyer outcome from partnering with a new vendor. It starts with the key goal, identifies a known gap that hinders goal achievement and names a specific gain that would support investing in a new partnership.
For example, the payoff statement for the Vice President who signs off on the budget for a CRM tool like HubSpot might look like this:
I understand that you would like to see a 10% increase in social leads from Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and other sources, but need a way for your team to manage and track these campaigns. You also shared that each 1% gain in qualified social leads contributes several hundred new sales-qualified opportunities that can be worked by the sales team.
Whereas the payoff statement for the Director whose main concern is managing the work, might look like this:
I understand your VP has set a goal of a 10% increase in social leads and that to achieve this objective your team needs a turnkey CRM-based approach to managing social campaigns. You shared specifically that your team needs a digital workflow that supports developing social campaigns, managing leads and contacts across these campaigns.
A good payoff statement anchors the entire arc of the conversation with a new potential buyer or with an existing customer interested in adding a new product or capability. It is the most important “sell through” tool, giving an internal champion for our product or service a crisp way to present a case for a conversation and bring in other decision makers.
The payoff statement has to be developed and further refined in collaboration with the buyer and creating it is often an iterative process. Getting to the right payoff statement may involve a back-and-forth discovery, further discovery, and confirmation through a couple of conversations as the buyer helps define what success would really look like for them.
A new buyer’s willingness to collaborate on building a payoff statement that aligns to a similar outcome that has already been achieved for other customers is often a great way to qualify fit on both sides. It is the customer outcomes that make sales growth repeatable and bring Sales, Marketing, and Customer Success into alignment on an authentic buyer journey.