BLOG: SELLING IN THE BREAKTHROUGH ZONE

Is scope creep suffocating your opportunities?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 22-May-2018

Most sales organisations would agree that increasing average deal values is a positive objective, along with shortening sales cycles and improving win rates.

But the same is not necessarily true when it comes to specific sales opportunities. In fact, as a client recently acknowledged, attempts to maximise the initial deal size can often have serious negative consequences.

In striving to increase the value of the deal, we can sometimes make the purchase process more complicated than it would otherwise need to be and delay the final decision.

That’s why, particularly in new customer situations, it’s often better to adopt a “land and expand” strategy...

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12 key sales qualifiers

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 10-May-2018

Early, accurate qualification is critical to success in complex B2B sales. It allows us to identify the opportunities that we have a real chance of winning, and it allows us to quickly eliminate poorly qualified deals from our pipeline.

In my experience (and hopefully yours as well), one of the key factors that separates top performing sales people from the rest is that they have too much respect for their own time to waste it pursuing opportunities they are never likely to win.

They qualify hard, and they qualify early, while their less confident colleagues cling on to prospects that by any rational analysis are never likely to close - and waste a huge amount of their time (and that of their colleagues) in the process.

For years, the default mechanism for qualifying sales opportunities was BANT (Budget, Authority, Need and Timeframe) - but it is now so inadequate and inappropriate that I shudder when I hear of sales teams that are still using it. Here’s why...

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We’re NOT Average

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 8-May-2018

Mark Twain is said to have popularised the phrase “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics". In an amusing variation, an obviously learned British judge is said to have categorised witnesses into three classes: “simple liars, damned liars, and experts”.

It often feels like we’re being bombarded by streams of re-quoted, out-of-context statistics from so-called or self-declared experts (often to justify self-labelled “thought leadership” that turns out to be nothing of the sort). And yes, I’ve been guilty of it myself. Maybe you have too.

There’s a fairly standard formula to this: a statistic is quoted, often out of context, and without regard to the limitations of the study from which it was drawn and then used to justify what is in all probability a spurious conclusion. And yes, I’ve probably been guilty of that as well.

But averages are NOT absolute. And none of us, and none of our customers, are average, either. So, it’s time to stop behaving as if we and they are...

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Shaping our customer's "why"...

Posted by Bob Apollo on Mon 30-Apr-2018

I recently shared my thoughts about applying Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why” concept (also known as The Golden Circle) to the sales process - you can read the article here.

I used Sinek’s framework to make the point that our best customers don’t just buy what we do, they buy into why we have chosen to do it and are prepared to pay a premium for how we do it.

Being able to articulate our why - and going on to explain how our approach is distinctively different and capable of driving superior outcomes for our customer - is a critical advantage in complex B2B sales.

But what about our prospective customer’s why and how - the reason why they believe they need to change and their vision of how they are going to make that change happen? What can we do to influence their thinking?

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Starting with “Why”

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 26-Apr-2018

In September 2009, Simon Sinek took the stage at a TEDx event and delivered an 18-minute presentation that has now been viewed around 50 million times across a variety of different sites.

In it, Sinek offered a model for inspirational leadership that he explored in his best-selling “Start With Why”. He has gone on to be widely recognised as an expert in how leading organisations and people think, act and communicate.

I’m a fan. I believe what he believes.

If you’re unfamiliar with Sinek’s work, I’ve included a link to his presentation below. His concept of the Golden Circle - grounded in the biology of human decision making - helps us understand why some messages resonate while others fail. And it has tremendous relevance for successful B2B sales conversations...

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Is your thought leadership really “thought followership”?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 19-Apr-2018

It seems as if everybody wants to be a thought leader nowadays, and to publish insights that are going to somehow miraculously transform market perceptions and make the sales process easier.

A growing share of marketing budgets is being directed towards this goal and being used to create, publish and share white papers, executive briefings, blog articles, events, podcasts, videos, webinars and the like.

But there’s a problem: if (as I believe it should be) the primary purpose of these “thought leadership” investments is to cause the consumer of the information to think differently, the vast majority of this investment is utterly wasted.

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Why should your customers migrate to your new solution?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Mon 16-Apr-2018

If - like many of the clients I work with - you are an established enterprise software company, it’s likely that your initial success will have been based on selling a perpetually licensed on-premise solution.

And even if you’ve developed a new cloud-based version of your application, it’s likely that many of your customers will still be running on your older on-premise platform. You probably want to move them on to your new solution.

But what’s the best way of achieving this? The natural inclination of most technology-based businesses is to sell the advanced capabilities of their shiny new solution.

But some compelling recent research has concluded that this is a potentially costly mistake...

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In search of the perfect sale...

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 4-Apr-2018

Is there such a thing as a “perfect sale”? A sale in which we got the highest possible price in the shortest possible sales cycle with the least possible effort, and in which our customer got far more than they hoped for whilst spending far less than they feared?

Complex B2B sales are complicated. They involve multiple stakeholders, some of whom may have conflicting objectives. They often involve multiple solution options, some of which might have completely different approaches. They are rarely if ever friction-free. They typically include “do nothing” as a common potential outcome.

Under these circumstances, seeking perfection might seem like an impossible dream, and maybe it is. Maybe perfection is better seen as a journey, rather than as a destination. But what if we saw the challenge instead as reducing imperfection, or eliminating avoidable error?

If we adopt the latter thought process, then maybe - just maybe - we can turn an impossible dream into an achievable goal…

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The compelling case for hastening slowly

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 28-Mar-2018

In “The Tortoise and the Hare” Aesop describes a race between a slow-moving tortoise and a fast-moving over-confident hare. Despite the skittish hare racing ahead at first, his slow-but-steady competitor arrives at the finishing line ahead of him.

This widely-told ancient fable has been used to make the case for “more haste, less speed”, to support the biblical observation that “the race is not to the swift” and to reinforce the virtues of persistence and perseverance.

The lessons can be applied to many aspects of life - not least of which the sales process. It’s my observation that many so-called “sales closing problems” actually have their roots in “opening problems” and the failure to do sufficient upfront discovery…

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Establishing (& amplifying) our customer’s value gap

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 22-Mar-2018

If we boil it down to the basics, there is one over-riding reason why our customers accept the need for change rather than sticking with the status quo: because (with or without our help) they perceive a large and growing value gap between their current situation and their future aspirations.

When this value gap is small and stable, they will be inclined to avoid the cost and risk of change and they will inevitably have other higher-priority projects that they will be more inclined to plough their scarce time, energy and money into.

But when this value gap is large and growing, when the pain, cost and risk of staying the same is perceived to be far higher than even the inevitable costs and risks associated with any significant change project, they will be inclined to make action a priority.

That’s why establishing, influencing and wherever possible amplifying our customer’s perceived value gap is such a critical element of any successful complex B2B sales campaign…

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