Sell the outcome, not the product
entrepreneurship productivity

Sell the outcome, not the product

Kyle Redelinghuys
Kyle Redelinghuys

When I started in my role as Head of Engineering at Dae.mn the company was selling capabilities, as many companies do. We were selling the things we do - software engineering, DevOps, cloud work - and not the benefit that a customer got. This went all the way through to the ground level, where we would be offering a "Go engineering capability with microservices" as an engineering capability.

Changing from capabilities to outcomes is hard. It's a cultural shift, and it's a lot of work to get this executed efficiently.

Understand your offering

One of the first steps is to understand what you actually offer. I did this by going through what we say we offer and then looking at what we sold in at customers. By listing all of this I got a pretty clear picture of what we did, and also a clear picture of what was working.

What gets measured, gets managed - Peter Drucker

With this list of things we do, I then started grouping them into outcomes. "Software engineering backed by good architecture, microservices and best engineering practice delivered by a complete team" becomes "Bespoke Product Development". The conversation changes from "here is a list of things we can offer you" to "here is the problem we will solve for you".

These are what we call Go To Markets - this is what we sell to our customers and how we represent what we offer to the world.

Once I completed this task, we had five GTMs and now we had to start selling. Defining the GTMs is the first of many steps, so we started to move forward.

Preparation for selling

Once everything is defined internally, you need to move to getting it out there. This is a journey comprised of several steps, but each product in each business will follow the same or very similar journey.

When you work on getting ready to sell the product you are working on the business and not in the business. This is where you want to spend a lot of your time. You want to create systems that support any activity you need. These activities include:

  • Marketing material (for sales to use directly)
  • Online marketing (website, content)
  • Costing templates (to accurately and quickly cost a given engagement)
  • Proposals (to send to clients)
  • Product frameworks (to support the actual delivery)
  • Processes (for governance, reporting, auditing)

You should work on this until each part of the journey is made into a system which takes inputs, has rules and process which are followed, and then has outputs. This makes you less dependent on who is doing the work, which makes your business run smoother and also makes it saleable.

When I went through this process at our company it was a journey. Implementing these systems was a step change in thinking, so a lot of other work had to be done to get these through. Slowly but surely we are moving in the right direction - doing this is definitely a marathon, not a sprint.

Getting what you sell in front of buyers

Now, you have the plan and the systems and are ready to pull the trigger. You need to decide who you are selling to and then how to get in front of them. This strategy will depend on who your market is, B2C is very different from B2B, and some B2B companies are very different to one another.

I can speak the most about selling services and products to large, generally bureaucratic organisations. By far the best way to sell to these organisations is relationships. Leverage your existing network and/or grow your network by making friends with everyone you should be making friends with. This means reaching out to people directly, asking anyone you can for introductions, taking people out for lunch and dinner, and doing this consistently.

In my world you should also focus on content and branding. A solid website, lots of thoughtful content and consistent output. Again, this has been a step change for our company and we are on the journey now so we'll start seeing these results towards to the end of the year.

Also to note, content marketing is super important not just for getting new customers, but also for growing your team. If you're going to be growing your customer base you'll need to be getting more staff on board. And as always, good people are hard to come by.

What customers actually buy

The branding and marketing, when done correctly, will give your customers and potential team members a clear idea of who you are, what you do and what you've done. They need to understand who they are dealing with, if you'll work well together, and if you'll deliver. They need to feel that a partnership will be successful.

This leads to the conclusion: you are selling the company, not the product.

Your customers buy your company, not your product. They go with ACME corp and get the CMS solution they provide even though there are dozens of other CMS systems. Why? Because ACME is what they are actually buying.

Everything in the company should line up working backwards from "the company is the product". All marketing, brand and voice, content, products, delivery, communication from start to finish, interactions with the team - everything should support the company/product duality.

Once this is aligned you're in a really good place. Getting here might take a few months or it might take a few years, but the process is what it's all about.