Organisations are increasingly judged by how they contribute to society and how they contribute to the challenges currently facing our planet. We can read in Accenture’s research on responsible leadership that 61% of emerging leaders (the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders and Global Shapers) say that business models should only be pursued if they generate profitable growth and improve societal outcomes at the same time.
In response, sustainability as a business strategy is becoming increasingly appealing and businesses are driving change – and success – with sustainable business goals
Unfortunately, it hasn’t all been good news, and true progress in this area has become murky and tinged with cynicism in some sectors. Sustainability has become a buzz word and can often be accompanied by unsubstantiated marketing claims and cries of ‘green washing’ when an organisation purports to be environmentally conscious for marketing purposes but actually isn’t making any notable sustainability efforts – have hit headlines.
Sustainability commitments are no longer about fluffy words and evocative pictures: the most sustainable organisations are those that actually take action – not just with statements in their annual reports, but action at a deep operational level. Huthwaite has worked with many organisations who have sustainability issues and growth targets high on their business agenda. For their sales functions, they ensure all their customer conversations consider sustainability implications in a way that is fair, appropriate and deserving of trust.
Using SPIN Selling, salespeople can understand what stage their customers are at in their sustainability journey, asking questions around the importance of quality and use of product and, if required, educating customers’ about the product lifecycle. SPIN trained salespeople work as consultants to create value and true benefits, based on real customer needs – and thus create a successful sustainable business cycle instead of a product sale based on a short-term solution.
Using the SPIN Selling methodology, there are four main ways organisations can put sustainability into the heart of their sales efforts:
Marketing first – have a sustainable value proposition - Starting with the message is crucial. Working with the marketing as well as the sales teams helps to develop a sustainable value proposition that showcases the added value organisations can offer, whether that is environmentally, socially or financially. Sustainable marketing, when done authentically, brings customers and organisations together toward shared goals and success, for the short and the long term. Make sure you involve the sales teams in the planning of sustainable initiatives so they can quantify the value of your sustainability offerings for their customers by getting those customers to articulate in their own words how, where and by how much those offerings will provide tangible payoffs. And if you have them, share extra sustainability knowledge and results with them.
Using the SPIN questioning model to really know their customers and understand what sustainability means to them – marketing has been concerned with communicating sustainable virtues for a while but sustainability in sales hasn’t been a large part of the debate. Using SPIN, salespeople can get to the heart of issues with questions that probe how customers are working sustainably in their own business, what’s missing, what gaps they really need to fill, how they can work sustainably together and how all of that can be reflected in contracts, process etc.
Use SPIN to effectively communicate the product value, not just the features – sustainability oriented customers are not only interested in product features – they really want to learn how responsibility and sustainability are integrated in production and process. The SPIN questioning model will help you to unearth their areas of interest and concern so you can discuss the importance of the customer’s ethos in this area and how your products meet their sustainability needs and standards in highly specific ways that support the stated value proposition.
Plan for future sales conversations – in your sales conversations, note when sustainability concerns are expressed and how they were addressed. Capture this information and feedback into the marketing messaging as well as allocating the issues raised to each stage of the Buying Cycle. Communicating this information back to the team ensures salespeople are well prepared for future conversations with their customers about the issues they really care about.
Use SPIN to lead your business into a more sustainable and successful future. SPIN Selling can help you to retain loyal customers that share your sustainability values, allowing you to set yourself apart from the competition in a meaningful way that’ll delight your customers and supercharge sales!