Travel agents have learned not to sell their products. They’ve become much smarter than that.
Travel Agents’ Products
When we book a holiday, there’s a long list of products and services the travel agent can offer. These include-
- passport applications
- visa applications
- advice on vaccinations and health
What Travel Agents Sell
When we walk into a travel agent, there’s something that immediately catches our eye. Travel posters. The posters entice us with exotic scenes. A gorgeous beach with white sun lounges beckoning. Or an untouched ski field with someone carving the pristine slope. Or an exotic city. Or revelry at a famous nightclub or event.
The posters serve one purpose. They create a scene in our mind. And we’ll want to be in one of those scenes. We’ll want to lounge on that beach; or swoosh down that ski slope; or wander the backstreets of that fascinating city; or party in that nightclub.
Our Travel Outcome
We choose the travel poster in which we want to feature. We now have an outcome in mind. We’re clear about the to-be state we want to achieve.
That makes the travel agent’s job easy. They just need to place us in that poster. They package up the elements needed to make that poster a reality for us. They’ll need to take account of our budget, time constraints, number and age of people travelling and so on. But those are all details. The travel agent works on only one thing – enabling the outcome we want. Getting us into that travel poster.
What Travel Agents Have Learned
Travel agents learned a simple lesson a long time ago. Create an enticing to-be state in the mind of a potential customer. Get them hooked on that to-be state. Then, you can sell your products and services.
Most technology vendors haven’t learned that lesson. They insist on leading with their products and services. They believe in their products. They think if they show these great products, customers will realise they must own those products. And will queue to buy them.
Sadly, that rarely happens. Customers might feel impressed by the product. And they’ll often complement the vendor on the features of the product. But there’s a missing connection. Seeing the product hasn’t created a mental picture for the customer. There’s no travel poster. They’re not seeing how acquiring this new product would put them in a new and desirable to-be state. So, the motivation to buy remains low.
Technology Travel Posters
Each technology vendor needs clarity on the travel poster they offer customers. They can’t leave it to the customers to translate the features of a product into a possible new to-be state. The technology vendor, like the travel agent, needs to lead with a mental picture. They need to tell the customer the to-be state the customer could achieve.
If the customer likes the mental picture, and it’s important enough to them, they’ll be ready to buy. The job of the vendor then becomes easy. Show why the vendor can best deliver that mental picture. Show why the customer should choose the vendor to realise the outcome or to-be state.
Two Types of Outcomes
In technology, we deal with two types of outcomes. The first is a Product Outcome. It’s the direct benefit of using our products or services. The second type we call a Success Outcome. It’s the bigger business outcome the customer needs to achieve when they buy our products or services.
Lots of technology vendors are moving to an outcome approach. Unfortunately, many focus on product outcomes. They show the benefits from their product. For example, a marketing automation vendor might focus on the quality of email marketing results. Or the number of leads. A knowledge-management vendor might show how much information will now be available to staff.
But product outcomes don’t create travel posters. They don’t create a mental picture of a to-be state the customer could achieve.
Technology Travel Posters Need Success Outcomes
Think about what the CEO of a customer would want when considering a new technology product.
Would a CEO approve expenditure on marketing automation to achieve better email marketing? Certainly not. To achieve more leads? Possibly, but only if Sales can close those leads. The CEO doesn’t want better marketing or more leads. The CEO wants more sales.
Similarly with knowledge management. Would staff having access to more information excite a CEO? Probably not. If that information leads to better decisions, a vendor may have the CEO’s interest. If a clear link exists between better decisions and improved business performance, that’s something a CEO wants.
To create a technology travel poster, a vendor must know the Success Outcome they serve. That becomes their guiding light. The big thing they can help customers achieve.
The Office of a Success Outcome Vendor
When you visit a travel agent, there’ll be posters on the wall. When you visit the office of a Success Outcome vendor, they’ll also have posters on the wall. The posters will paint a mental picture of a to-be state. The customers can picture themselves in the poster.
And the customers want to be in that poster.
This article is based on the book; The Outcome Generation: How a New Generation of Technology Vendors Thrives through True Customer Success
Paul Henderson is an author, speaker and consultant on outcome-based customer success for technology vendors. His last role was leading the Asia Pacific region of an enterprise software company. He saw the potential that could come from delivering real and measurable business success for customers. So, he initiated a customer success program based on customer outcomes. He and his colleagues developed, modified and proved the model over more than five years. He thespent one a half years researching and writing, culminating in the release of The Outcome Generation.