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When Do We Win (in Technology Sales)

by Hank Barnes  |  January 12, 2016  |  2 Comments

Over the holidays, I had a great conversation with Dave Brock.    It was a far ranging discussion flowing from customer journeys, to bad social selling practices, to situational selling, and more.   But one of the discussion areas really stuck with me.

What should be the focused goal of sales?  While revenue is the immediate answer that comes to mind, a few others cropped up.   Some people talk about all of sales efforts being oriented toward making it easy for the customer to buy  (I certainly talk about that as one goal of marketing, with the related one being making it easy for sales to sell).  Others focus on “closing the deal.” aka, winning the race.

Dave has a different perspective.  The goal of sales should be to solve the customer’s problem.


As we discussed it further, I can to the realization that Dave’s perspective is better.

You could wordsmith it a bit, since not all buys are to solve a problem (some may be about capturing and opportunity or, simply adding value).  But the essence is correct.    A focus of sales and selling should be on making sure the customer gets value from what they buy.   You might be able to make a case where this might not apply (I’m hard pressed to find one), but it is certainly true in technology markets.

The shift in focus has many implications

  • You can celebrate the “win”–the deal closing, but that should be viewed as just a key milestone in a longer journey.
  • The view of a sales team might expand to include people traditionally involved in delivery.  Today that is often viewed as a hand-off.  We need to rethink that (I’ll share some thoughts on that in my next blog post).
  • A value focus puts you in a better position to retain and upsell, as my colleague Todd Berkowitz talks about
  • The idea that “everybody is a salesperson” may even work (although i hate the  way it is portrayed today) – whether for sales or marketing)—more appropriately, everyone in your company has a role they play in helping customers get value…so everyone is “in sales.”

To be clear, there are examples of where this is the practice already–largely driven by business models:

  • Embedded Systems – Getting selected to be a component of the system is the first win.  But if you don’t do the work to make sure the system gets delivered, and then sold, you don’t capture the revenue opportunity.
  • SaaS Businesses – With an easier ability, at least contractually (in most cases), to switch, SaaS companies put (or should put) more emphasis on making sure the customer gets value and is using the service.  If not, they run the risk of churn or reduction in purchases.
  • Other Subscription Businesses (Gartner is actually a great example) – We are fundamentally a subscription business, but if customers don’t read much research or have many interactions, they are more likely not to renew.  We have focused processes and tools to understand if we are delivering value to the client.  Everyone in the company is acknowledged as playing a role in customer value creation.   It is an essential element of our business.
  • Channel-driven Businesses – To sell through a channel, the first win is getting the partner to accept your product.   Then the real work begins to help them sell it.

The last example illustrates how this could really chain together.  Providers need to help their channel partners get value from their buy (choice of the provider’s product).  Those partners need to help the end customer get value.  The provider might have to help along the way.  Everyone is part of the value chain.

But even in these situations there are plenty of examples where old habits are at play.  We celebrate the initial win, but lose collective focus on the “value generation” win.   If you look at companies with higher churn rates and less success, I’m thinking you’ll likely see these motivations at play.

Provider, take a look at your sales processes and what you consider a win.   Maybe it is time to rethink it.   How would that impact how your approach sales, marketing, and service?  How would that deliver more value for your customers and your business?

The deal is a key milestone.  But the win comes when value is achieved.   A shift in the thinking around the goal of sales can help move the mindsets (and it might also help sales be more valued as a trusted profession).



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Category: future-of-sales  go-to-market  

Tags: customer-experience  marketing  sales  sales-cycle  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes explores the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. Using that customer-centric lens, he advises those responsible for marketing technology products and services, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and startup CEOs on next practices to drive success for their customers and their business. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on When Do We Win (in Technology Sales)

  1. ken rutsky says:

    Focus on value delivery and value capture becomes easy. Focus on value capture over value delivery and you get churn. Not that complicated, but old habits die young.

  2. Dave Brock says:

    Hank, I’m very flattered, thank you! It’s important to think that Value Creation/Delivery starts with the very first interaction with the customer and continues through the entire life cycle. In some sense, we make deposits and withdrawals through the life cycle in which we engage with the customer. Over time these must be in balance, otherwise it’s a bad deal for one or the other of us.

    Focusing on just one stage (for example, the buying decision) reduce the total value potential in the relationship.

    Thanks for the great article and the shout out!

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