Effectively Using Emotion: Understanding the Difference between Solutions and Outcomes in the Sales Process

Make sure your solution gets you toward yes. Image from dollarphotoclub.com
Make sure your solution gets you toward yes. Image from dollarphotoclub.com

Taking the time to understand the difference between a solution and an outcome – and how to use them during the sales process – can help you become a more effective sales pro than ever before. Consider the following case study. An HR director for a small company handles all hiring on her own. As a result, she’s in charge of determining whether there’s budget to hire staff, writing job descriptions, posting and promoting them, interviewing candidates, negotiating offers, and onboarding new hires. Yet, in her industry, it’s really tough to hire new talent. Let’s assume that we’re discussing developers, which CNET recently highlighted are getting paid as much as $250,000 per year. [1. “Silicon Valley Talent Wars: Engineers, come get your $250K Salary,” http://www.cnet.com/news/silicon-valley-talent-wars-engineers-come-get-your-250k-salary/] As a result, she’s in the market for a technology solution to improve her recruiting results.

Enter: The Sales Professional

At first glance, this HR director is a dream prospect for any sales rep that is selling an applicant tracking system. After all, applicant tracking systems simplify recruiting, track the whole application and interview process, and have features that can eliminate administrative work. It should be an easy sell. But in order to close the sale effectively, it’s important to be able to break down her situation systematically.

The very first question that you need to answer is, “What’s her problem?” There are numerous ways to find that out. Ask her. Read HR journals to better understand what it’s like to be a recruiter in the competitive software industry with limited resources. Observe. Through a combination of conversations and background research, you’re usually able to determine what problems prospects are wrestling with. In particular, it’s important to understand:

  • What the current situation looks like
  • What goals the prospect is trying to achieve
  • What obstacles are keeping her from achieving those goals
  • The kind of impact that it’s having on her business in a quantifiable way

Discussing the case study above, your prospect may be finding herself in a hiring drought. The best candidates are getting snapped up before she can vet them or arrange conversations. There’s simply too much to do. She’s trying to fill multiple mission-critical open positions. She’s not able to reach candidates or respond quickly enough to be competitive. As a result, her company’s performance is suffering and she’s beginning to get into issues with her bosses.

The Difference between Solutions and Outcomes

Once you’ve defined the landscape of a prospect’s problems, it’s possible to begin demonstrating solutions. Solutions help address specific issues that a prospect is having. Often, solutions can bring immediate relief and results. It’s important to consider measurable ways that solutions will change a prospect’s life in terms of data or financial impact. For example:

  • Eliminating administrative work frees up five hours a week for the HR manager to talk to prospects
  • Using weighted questions to better profile candidates when they apply helps her more quickly narrow in on qualified candidates
  • A faster applications process helps build a tech-forward image that appeals to developers

Potential solutions can go on, based on the specific problems that your prospect is having. Solutions solve immediate problems. But they don’t really get into the emotional impact of potential changes. How big is the difference between the “problem landscape” that you’ve described and the world that’s filled with “solutions?” The larger the difference – the DELTA, or change between two things – the better chance you have of making the sale. And by quantifying the DELTA in an effective way, you’ll be able to speak to the outcomes and the emotional impact that it’ll have on the prospect.

Emotions and Outcomes

Even the most demanding B2B buyers–the ones who need to justify a purchase to everyone from their CFO to external auditor–have emotional triggers that impact purchase decisions. Buyers are usually rational and want a good justification for their purchase, but there’s an underlying emotional trigger that’s essential to address. Often, emotional triggers are connected to outcomes. Outcomes demonstrate in concrete terms what a prospect will achieve if they work with you: they build on your planned process, your established experience undertaking these tasks for other clients, and the results you’ve achieved for them.

Take the HR director above. An improved recruiting process could completely change her day-to-day work life. Filling developer positions could get her development team back on schedule or allow the company to bill for tens of thousands of dollars in work each month. Personally, she’ll be viewed as an effective recruiter in a tough market. Her credibility will go up with her managers, which could lead to raises, promotions, and less stress on the job. Both the day-to-day outcomes (e.g., less stress) and the longer term outcomes (e.g., more money and a more successful company) play into your prospect’s emotional state. When you can show them how your solution will help them reach a positive emotional status, you’re more likely to be successful at the sale.


One of the biggest points of confusion for sales pros is the difference between solutions and outcomes. A solution solves a problem; an outcome is how it transforms the prospect’s life. If you stop with the solution, you won’t evoke an emotional response and may fail to persuade your prospect to buy. By systematically following the One Page Sales Coach process, you’ll learn to differentiate and provide both the intellectual reasoning (solutions) and the emotional catalyst (outcomes and impact) needed to close even the toughest deals.

Effectively managing the sales process takes both practices and the right framework. YESCALATE® can help you GET TO YES FASTER® by giving you the persuasive skills to move a conversation in the right directions, pick up on important cues, and convince clients that you aren’t just selling – you are interested in them and understand their emotional priorities.