A Simple Guide to Compelling Messaging for the Complex Sale


10 Ways to Improve Sales Prospecting and Pipeline Management

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 27-Oct-2016

I was delighted to be recently offered the opportunity to contribute to KiteDesk’s Sales Expert Interview series. Eric Quanstrom came up with 10 excellent questions that really got to the heart of the challenges many sales organisations face in sales prospecting and pipeline management.

We covered a range of topics, including the most common reasons for inconsistent revenue performance, and most common reasons sales people give for not prospecting. I hope that you might find my responses interesting, so I’m republishing the entire interview here…

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Latest Guide: Identifying Your Ideal Customers

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 25-Oct-2016

If your organisation is primarily involved in high-value, complex and lengthy B2B sales cycles, you don't need me to tell you how important it is that your marketing and sales efforts are precisely targeted on the issues, organisations and stakeholders that are most likely to turn into long-term profitable customers.

The cost of pursuing opportunities that are unlikely to go anywhere is simply too high - as well as being incredibly wasteful in terms of energy, effort and morale on the part of both your marketers and your sales people.

That's why one of the key factors that separates top-performing sales people and sales organisations from the rest is the ability to consistently target the right opportunities and the discipline to qualify out the ones they are unlikely to win...

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What if all our candidates are imperfect?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 11-Oct-2016

When it comes to political elections, we’re often faced with imperfect choices. But we can’t defer our decision. We have to live with the choice we make on Election Day, whether we choose to vote for someone we are wholeheartedly enthusiastic about, resign ourselves to supporting the least worst option, or choose to abstain.

The nature of politics being what it is, it’s becoming increasingly usual for all of the limited number of candidates to have very obvious imperfections.

Whether we vote or abstain, we have to live with the consequences. But - thank goodness - we’re not forced into having to make the judgements when hiring sales people. We can take as much time as we need, without being forced to make a final decision on a single pre-determined date.

We may have to accept imperfections in our politicians. But we’d be very foolish to recruit any new sales people if we have any significant reservations about how whether they are likely to fit in, or how they are likely to perform…

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Bridging the sales performance gap

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 28-Sep-2016

In the majority of sales organisations, a high percentage of sales revenue is generated by the same minority of top sales performers, quarter after quarter. According to research published by the CEB in “The Challenger Sale”, this performance gap between top sales people and the rest is amplified in complex, high value sales environments.

They found that in a transactional selling environment, the performance gap between average and star performers was 59 percent - but in complex sales environments the gap was almost 200 percent - more than three times as wide. It’s clear that even a modest narrowing of this gap could drive a dramatic improvement in revenue.

The natural response from many sales leaders who are faced with this situation is to resolve to hire smarter next time, or to invest in sales training - but neither strategy seems to have a particularly good track record. When it comes to recruitment, it seems that there simply aren’t enough natural high performers to go around...

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When demographics aren’t enough: how to identify your ideal customers

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 22-Sep-2016

Traditional market segmentation is usually based around the core demographic attributes of company size, sector and location: for example, we might choose to target medical equipment companies turning over £100-250m located in the South East of England.

But, as many sales organisations have learned, this simple approach to segmentation really only scratches the surface, and tells us very little about whether any individual organisation is likely to be a prospect from our solution now or at any time in the future.

That’s because demographics are only really useful for defining populations - our potential target universe - but are a wholly inadequate way of identifying markets...

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Lessons from Chess: why sales people need to think ahead

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 15-Sep-2016

When we observe a chess grand master in action (or an expert in any other similar strategy-based game), it quickly becomes apparent that they are not merely living in the moment but thinking several moves ahead. Pursuing the most obvious immediate move could store trouble up for the future.

The same, of course, applies to selling. The best sales people pursue long-term strategies - and they also give themselves options that allow them to anticipate and adapt to their prospect’s future behaviour.

Perhaps the best example of this is how top sales people adapt their strategies to their entry path into the prospect. There are really two fundamental paths: top-down and bottom-up, and the strategies that need to be adopted vary significantly between the two.

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What we’ve got here is failure to differentiate…

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 13-Sep-2016

Let’s face it, establishing a distinctive, differentiated position for our products and services is hard and getting harder in an increasingly crowded, over-communicated-to market. It’s probably accurate to say that it’s never been harder to stand out from the crowd.

Geoffrey Moore recognised the problem in “Crossing the Chasm” more than 20 years ago - a book that has been recognised as one of the few timeless classic texts on B2B marketing. Moore offered a simple framework for crafting a unique and relevant value proposition targeted at a well-defined audience.

But in today’s hyper-competitive world, I’ve found that it’s worth expanding Moore’s original framework just a bit to ensure that we’re capturing the raw insights we need to craft compelling communications and conversations…

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Aligning our sales process with our prospect’s buying journeys

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 1-Sep-2016

In complex sales environments, the role of the successful salesperson isn’t just about prospecting, qualifying and closing. In fact, the most effective sales people are the ones who manage to successfully facilitate complex buying decision processes that involve multiple stakeholders.

And yet the sales pipeline stages in the majority of CRM implementations are still defined with reference to the completion of a linear sequence of sales activities such as “qualifying”, “demonstrating” and “proposing” that usually bear little relationship to the true state of the prospect’s often-complex buying journey, or the likelihood they will either do anything or choose your solution.

It’s no wonder that so many sales pipeline valuations are wildly optimistic, or that sales forecasts often remain stubbornly inaccurate, with “current quarter commit” deals that turn out to be nothing of the sort. If you recognise, or even suspect that you have a problem in these areas, it’s time to take action.

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Are your sales athletes rocks or sponges?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Mon 22-Aug-2016

With the Rio Olympics drawing to a close and with some remarkable individual and team performances still fresh in our memories, this is perhaps an appropriate moment to reflect on what sales people and sales organisations can learn from the world’s top sportspeople.

There’s no doubt that the profession of selling could be improved by embracing ideas like the accumulation of marginal gains and a focus on “controlling the controllables” - both subjects I plan to return to in the coming weeks.

But I wanted to initiate this train of thought by drawing upon a concept that I learned from Sir Clive Woodward - coach of the England 2003 Rugby World Cup winning team and Director of Sport for the British Olympic Association in the run-up to the London 2012 Olympics…

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ADOPTED: a far better way to qualify complex sales opportunities

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 17-Aug-2016

One of the fundamental capabilities that distinguish top sales people - and top sales organisations - from the rest is their ability to accurately qualify sales opportunities from a relatively early stage in the sales process.

Effective qualification is important in any sales environment, but it’s absolutely critical in high-value complex sales situations with multiple stakeholders, where man-months of precious resource can easily be wasted pursuing opportunities that were never likely to buy anything or if they did, were never likely to buy from us.

Traditional approaches to sales qualification - like the over-simple BANT (Budget, Authority, Need and Timeframe) are utterly inadequate to reflect the dynamics of today’s complex sales opportunities. Fortunately, there are far better ways of dealing with the issue…

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