The Inflexion-Point Blog: Simplifying Complex Sales Challenges

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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The second most important moment in any B2B sales campaign

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 26-May-2015

There’s a reasonable case to be made that the most important moment in the management of any successful sales opportunity is the point at which you receive a bookable, revenue recognisable order - and it’s hard to argue anything different.

There’s also a pretty good case to be made that the second most important moment in the management of any successful sales opportunity is the point at which the project can be shown to have satisfied your (hopefully thoughtfully-defined) qualification criteria.

But I want to suggest - particularly for complex B2B sales environments - that there’s another critical phase in the evolution of successful sales opportunities that can make all the difference to whether or not you ultimately succeed.

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Why B2B Sales has to confront the Value Gap

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 14-May-2015

In survey after survey, the average sales person’s inability to effectively communicate the value of their offering has been rated as the most frustrating challenge facing today’s CEOs and Heads of Sales.

They are right to be concerned. The statistics are truly horrible.

When Forrester talked to B2B buyers, they reported that only 1 in 10 sales people were effective at communicating value rather than simply pitching their solution. But simply getting smarter about articulating the value of your solution will not make this problem go away. Here’s why…

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B2B Sales: Have you worked out what the real problem is?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 5-May-2015

At face value, having a prospect approach you with a clearly defined problem can seem to be very good news - even better if what they are looking for appears to fit perfectly into what you regard as your own particular sweet spot. If this is the result of months or years of persistent education and nurturing on your part, then this might well be very good news indeed.

But if they have approached you out of the blue, without any previous engagement, you should be very cautious about jumping straight in and telling them what a perfect fit your solution offers. Because the issue they think they have may not be the one they really need to solve. That’s why you need to curb your enthusiasm and start by helping them work out what their real problem is.

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Can you buy in to these 5 Contrarian Concepts?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 28-Apr-2015

The problem with slavishly following “best practice” is that it’s almost always what the really smart people (and organisations) used to do. By the time the concept has become widely recognised, the people and organisations that pioneered it have moved to the front of the next new wave.

That often involves embracing principles that at first appear to be contrary to commonly accepted norms - but which enable early adopters to stand out from the crowd. Here are my candidates for 5 apparently contrarian concepts that seem to have the capacity to deliver exceptional results.

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Acronyms Away! Why COI trumps ROI

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 23-Apr-2015

I’ve just been reading an article that suggests that ROI (Return on Investment) is some sort of magic bullet that can somehow ensure that you miraculously never lose another deal to “no decision”.

Well, I beg to differ, and not just because the idea that any one factor can guarantee that sort of positive outcome is patently preposterous. It’s because many people’s feelings about ROI calculations are akin to their feelings about sausage: “the more you know what goes into them, the less you feel like consuming them”.

Here’s why...

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Organisations have personas too!

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 14-Apr-2015

The idea of buyer personas seems to be sweeping the world of B2B marketing - another example of a business-to-consumer concept being embraced by the business-to-business world. Anticipating how different types of stakeholders are likely to think and behave is clearly helping to improve the quality of marketing messages and initial sales conversations.

But in complex B2B sales, we’re not just selling to individuals, but to teams of people within organisations, and I wonder if we haven’t been missing an important implication that is unique to B2B: those organisations have personas too!

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