The Inflexion-Point Blog: ReTH!NKing the Fundamentals of B2B Selling

Boldly Going in B2B Sales: Less Kirk, More Spock

Posted by Bob Apollo on Sat 3-Oct-2015

The traditional profile of a successful sales person isn’t a million light-years away from the personality of Captain James Tiberius Kirk - someone who has been variously described as “cunning, courageous and confident, and with a tendency to ignore regulations when he feels the end justifies the means”.

Apparently, the inspiration for Kirk’s character came from such diverse sources as Captain Horatio Hornblower, Shakespeare and Alexander the Great. So it’s no surprise that Kirk comes across as the all-action hero, capable of rescuing apparently fatal situations through exceptional acts of derring-do.

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What Sales could learn from Customer Experience

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 10-Sep-2015

I’m very grateful to Bob Thompson of CustomerThink for hosting a very stimulating round table with a group of the UK’s leading customer experience consultants yesterday. It was fascinating to hear what today’s best-in-class organisations are doing to create exceptional customer experiences - and somewhat galling to recognise how much room for improvement the rest of us have.

The essence of sales is surely (or ought to be) all about the quality of the buying experience, and there is clearly a great deal that those of us whose primary focus is on acquiring customers can learn from those whose business is primarily about retaining and developing customers…

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Transforming your sales process to reflect modern buying behaviours

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 3-Sep-2015

There’s no doubt that B2B buying behaviours have changed dramatically over the past few years. If you’re selling a complex, high-value solution, then you’ll almost certainly having to deal with better-educated buyers who expect more from their interactions with sales people - and are often disappointed.

And it’s not just the fact that you’ve got to satisfy the demanding expectations of increasingly well-informed buyers - the number of stakeholders that have a significant say in B2B buying decisions has grown steadily. According to research by the CEB, an average of 5-6 stakeholders are actively involved in every decision process - and in complex, high-value deals, the number is often significantly higher.

Unfortunately, many sales organisations have failed to re-design their traditional sales attitudes and processes to reflect the new buying reality. Their attempts to drive out-dated sales thinking even harder in the hope of turning things around are simply depressing win rates even further.

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ReachForce B2B Sales Expert Interview programme

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 26-Aug-2015

I was recently interviewed by ReachForce as part of their Expert Interview program. Here are some of the B2B sales related questions they posed:

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The fundamental principles of value-based selling

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 21-Jul-2015

It’s a sad fact that today’s average B2B sales person is still far more comfortable talking about their products than they are discussing business issues. However the average B2B buyer regards a sales person’s relevant business knowledge as being far more valuable than their ability to regurgitate product features, functions and benefits.

This terrible mismatch has profound consequences. It should be no surprise that on average 87% of the revenues in complex B2B sales environments are being generated by just 13% of the sales population. Needless to say, the gap between the best and the rest is far narrower in best-in-class sales organisations. What sets these top performing organisations apart?

There’s abundant evidence to suggest that one of the most significant differences lies in their ability to systematically create unique value to their customers through the disciplined application of value-based selling techniques across their entire sales and marketing organisation. And the results can be seen in top line revenue growth that far exceeds market averages.

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Competing against the status quo

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 16-Jul-2015

Note: this article originally appeared in the International Journal of Sales Transformation under the title 'Competing against "do nothing"'

If you’re involved in complex high-value B2B sales, your most significant competitor is almost certainly not another vendor, but the status quo. According to the latest findings from Sirius Decisions, Sales Benchmark Index and many other respected researchers, an increasingly common outcome for even seemingly well-qualified sales opportunities is not a win, or a competitive loss, but a decision to “do nothing”.

It’s not hard to understand why. Faced with a generally risk-averse business climate, and with more stakeholders than ever involved in the typical buying decision process, it’s often easier for prospective customers to conclude - after an apparently thorough consideration of the alternatives - that their least risky option is simply to stick with what they already have.

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The problem with assigning fixed percentages to pipeline stages

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 2-Jul-2015

On average, fewer than 50% of forecasted opportunities close at the predicted value and time - and the figure is usually far worse in early stage companies without an established track record of successfully closing business.

Its no wonder that revenue forecast accuracy is a huge frustration for CEOs and a frequent source of tension with both their Board of Directors and their sales leadership. After all, how hard can it be to work out when an opportunity a sales person been pursuing for months is going to close?

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Forrester: 4 types of B2B buyer = 4 types of B2B seller

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 9-Jun-2015

There’s a lot of attention been paid to Forrester’s recent projection that 1 million B2B sales people are going to lose their jobs to self-service eCommerce by 2020 in the US alone. Their report highlights the growing disconnect between B2B buying preferences and traditional B2B selling behaviours.

But the projected decline in sales force numbers isn’t universal. Forrester identify 4 types of B2B buying environment and match them with 4 types of sales profile - and one of those sales profiles isn’t in decline - it’s actually projected to grow. Unsurprisingly, it’s all connected with the value that sales people can bring to these different buying environments…

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Why you don’t need any sales stages in your sales pipeline

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 4-Jun-2015

The above assertion might appear counter-intuitive, but please bear with me. I’m going to try and make the case that you don’t need - and in fact you shouldn’t have - any sales stages in your sales pipeline.

I’m not arguing that you don’t need a sales pipeline. Far from it. The universe would probably grind to a halt if every sales organisation decided to abandon their pipeline. I’m just convinced that there’s a far better way of managing it than by using sales stages.

The alternative? It’s to value your pipeline and measure your progress with reference to the stage your prospects are at in their buying decision process. In other words, you don’t need sales stages - you need buying stages

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It’s time to kick the Shih Tzu out of buyer personas

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 2-Jun-2015

B2B marketers are directing an increasing percentage of their energy and budget towards content creation. But the consequent focus on quantity rather than quality is leaving B2B buyers unimpressed: according to Peter O'Neill of Forrester, more than 3 out of 4 believe that vendors are generating too much material for them to sort through.

Much of the content is simply a weakly disguised product pitch. But even when the content addresses a relevant issue, it often leaves the reader feeling that they have been subjected to a worthless re-hash of ideas they were already familiar with, and that they have learned nothing new.

One thing is obvious: if you don’t know what your target audience is likely to see value in, you’re unlikely to be able to create the sort of content that will engage them and make them want to learn more. So B2B marketers are now seeking salvation in buyer personas - but many are making unfortunate and avoidable errors in their implementation…

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