Why selling the outcome beats selling the product

If customers buy solutions, should we be selling outcomes and not products?

There is a saying in business that says what we sell, is not what our customers buy. The customer does not buy a service from us, they buy a solution to their problem.

Consider financial services companies. They might be selling managed funds, shares, superannuation, life insurance, and so on. However, what their customers are buying is a comfortable, secure and happy retirement, peace of mind and a legacy they can leave their families.

What does selling the outcome mean?

Consider the situation between DuPont and Ford in Canada.

Ford makes cars and they had a paint shop where they painted the cars. DuPont supplied Ford with the paint. DuPont found that the process Ford was using to paint the cars was inefficient, with a lot of waste and emissions going into the environment.

Now, DuPont had no interest in selling Ford less paint because they’re getting paid by the litre. So DuPont approached Ford and said, ‘What if we just sold you what you want? You don’t want paint, you want a painted car. We’ll take over your paint shop, we’ll do the painting and you get the outcome.’

DuPont used less paint with fewer emissions, and both companies made more money.

You can reframe your business and get real competitive advantage by understanding the outcome you want. Think about the outcome for your customers. What does your product allow them to do? How does it make their lives better? What economic value do you help them create? Then look at how you can sell them that outcome. It's time to take ownership and make the business more about the end result.

How is technology enabling businesses to become more outcome-centric?

Companies are using massive amounts of data to develop their ability to understand customer needs. They are moving away from the standardised customer/product approach to a new way – where data allows them to better understand what products and services each customer needs to tailor a solution for each of them.

Perhaps this is the opportunity to adopt technology? Be the best in your sector at collecting data, be transparent and share business activity with customers.

Companies all over the world in all industries are using connected devices that operate on 3G and 4G networks to get real-time information about their customers. And as technology becomes cheaper, we will all do things on a grander scale. Connected devices and captured data mean customers get faster and more forensic results. Here the business can detect patterns, produce detailed insights and make appropriate recommendations. Helping to give the customers an outcome.

In each instance, it’s the internet of things (IoT) – and the data it generates – that allows us to be more outcome-centric for our customers.


The world’s most customer-centric organisations focus on outcome-centric sales strategies.

Steve Jobs didn't sell computers, phones or music players. He sold devices to help people improve their lives. Revlon doesn't sell cosmetics. It manufactures things that help people feel better about themselves. Is a Ferrari four wheels, a beautiful metal body and a purring engine, or is it a way for its owner to make a statement about their success?

Sell the outcome, not the product.

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29th June 2020
Kathryn Birett
Big Ideas, IoT

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