MASTERING VALUE SELLING: the Inflexion-Point blog

In complex B2B sales, you face 3 types of competition

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 23-Feb-2017

Most B2B sales people have a narrow sense of competition. They usually restrict their thinking to other vendors in the same market sector. But this absurdly narrow definition of whom or what they are really competing against is causing them to ignore some of the most significant forces that often stand in the way of a sale.

In complex B2B sales environments, and particularly in those where the purchase is discretionary (where the customer could and often does ultimately decide to simply stick with the status quo) the competitive landscape is much more complicated.

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Size isn’t everything: why more revenue often flows from smaller pipelines

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 14-Feb-2017

One of the abiding urban myths that misinforms sales pipeline management is the idea that sales people need at least 3* pipeline coverage in order to achieve their quota. Where this “golden number” came from, nobody seems to know, but it’s a fair bet that it dates back beyond the Neolithic.

Another widespread urban myth is the idea that whenever you have a bigger sales pipeline, you end up selling more. It’s the sort of misconception that leads marketing teams to drive to create an ever-larger number of MQLs without any regard for how many of them ever actually result in any revenue.

The simple fact is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of what the optimum coverage ratio for any specific sales pipeline is…

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Why every sales opportunity needs a regular risk assessment

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 1-Feb-2017

If you were working in the health or social services, or in the nuclear, aerospace, oil, rail and military industries, you would be well aware of the need to perform risk assessments on a regular basis wherever there was a serious threat of a hazardous situation.

In fact, if you happened to be in a management or executive position in those environments, you might well have a legal responsibility to ensure that the necessary risk assessments were performed to the appropriate professional standard.

Some may regard these risk assessments as burdensome, and a few might hanker after a simpler, less bureaucratic climate. But there’s no doubt that risk assessments have saved many lives, and will continue to do so. Which might lead us to consider whether risk assessments could save sales deals, as well…

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Eliminating Valueless Sales Activity

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 25-Jan-2017

Selling has the potential to be an incredibly wasteful exercise. The vast majority of cold calls fail to establish any connection with a potential buyer. The vast majority of “leads” fail to convert into opportunities. And - except in truly exceptional sales organisations - the majority of qualified opportunities fail to convert into sales.

This level of waste in what ought to be a well-defined process would not be tolerated in any other environment. No manufacturing organisation could afford to build anything like this level of faulty products. No distribution company could afford to lose this level of packages. And no airline could survive so many faulty landings.

Now, it’s fair for you to observe that the nature of selling (and the often unpredictable nature of the B2B buying process) means that perfect outcomes cannot be guaranteed. But by any rational analysis most of us have probably come to accept far more imperfection in the sales process than I believe we ought or need to…

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The best sales presentations are designed from the inside out

Posted by Bob Apollo on Fri 13-Jan-2017

If you, like me, have spent the majority of your working life in the technology sector, you’ve probably sat through more than your fair share of awful, formulaic, and downright boring sales presentations.

You’re likely to have been exposed to more slides packed with the same customer logos, more maps jammed with pins showing office locations and more self-serving corporate positioning statements than any human being should have to endure in a lifetime.

You've probably been subjected to more irrelevant technical detail than any human being should have to endure. And you’ve almost certainly seen and heard the same trite phrases trotted out in pitch after pitch, to the point where they all blur together and you can’t tell them apart: “best in class”, “state of the art”, “industry-leading”… and the list goes on.

But it doesn’t have to be this way…

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What is your organisation going to do differently in 2017?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 22-Dec-2016

We’re rapidly approaching the end of the year, and barring the occasional miracle, it’s probably already pretty clear how your organisation’s sales year is going to end up. If you’re like most sales teams, it will probably have been a blend of high spots and low spots.

A subset of your sales people (often the same ones as last year) will have achieved their sales targets well before the end of the year. Another group will be there or thereabouts, and a further group will have struggled.

Some of your new hires will have proved their potential early, and the success of others is still to be proven. It’s a familiar picture that will be repeated across many - perhaps the majority - of sales organisations.

So here’s the critical year-end question: what have you learned from these experiences, and what is your sales organisation going to do differently in 2017 to close the gap between your best sales people and the rest?

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Where did that close date come from? (and where is it going to?)

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 6-Dec-2016

One of the biggest challenges to the accuracy of any sales forecasting system lies in accurately predicting the close date. It’s a particular problem this month, at the end of the sales year, because aligning everything necessary to close a bookable order requires a great deal of preparation, and quite a bit of luck.

Wandering close dates are another common challenge, particularly because they rarely seem to wander closer to you, but always seem to prefer to drift off towards the horizon.

Now, I know this is hard. I know that sales people can always be prey to external events. But there are a handful of simple measures that every sales leader could and should put in place to mitigate the problem…

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10 Critical Components of any B2B Sales Playbook

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 1-Dec-2016

If my recent experience is anything to go by, sales playbooks have overtaken sales analytics as 2017's "must do" sales performance improvement initiative. It's not hard to see why. CEOs and sales leaders are frustrated that - despite all their investments in CRM and sales training - there remains a significant and persistent performance gap between their top sales people and the rest.

Now, some of the difference can be attributed to the fact that many top performers display a set of personal attitudes and attributes that are missing in many other sales people. But that's far from the only (or even the main) explanation - much of the difference is actually down to learned behaviours - behaviours that their colleagues can copy.

And it's this discovery that has sparked a wave of interest in sales playbooks and in the technologies that support them. But - just as everybody ought to have learned with CRM - simply throwing technology at the problem will not by itself solve it...

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Closing the gap between your best sales people and the rest

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 22-Nov-2016

Most sales organisations of any significant size suffer from a significant gap between their best and worst performers. If we exclude recent hires from the analysis, sales people typically fall into one of three clusters:

A minority of the sales organisation - rarely more than 20% - are habitual over-performers. A larger number - often 30% or more - are habitual under-performers, with many displaying little evidence that they have the aptitude to improve.

After excluding these outliers, the majority of sales people sit somewhere in the middle: there is some indication that they have the potential to do better, but they have so far failed to consistently and reliably over-perform against their targets.

The middle ground represents a huge opportunity for performance improvement - so what can sales leaders do to narrow this gap between the best and the rest?

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10 Tell-Tale Signs Your Sales Process Needs Attention

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 16-Nov-2016

When asked, most sales organisations will claim to have a sales process. But there's a huge difference between having a loosely defined process that sales people give lip service to and having a highly effective and widely adopted sales process that is really driving sales performance.

The difference between the best and the rest, according to researchers from the Harvard Business Review, translates into an average 18% advantage in revenue growth. Other studies (including our own experiences) suggest even more dramatic benefits.

So how can you tell whether your current sales process needs attention?

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