Actionable ideas for improving B2B sales and marketing performance

B2B Sales: You need to focus on the workarounds that aren’t working

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 3-Sep-2014

In most “solution selling” methodologies, B2B sales people are encouraged to uncover their prospect’s issues, rather than leading with their products.

But there’s a potential problem: any organisation, any stakeholder, always has many more issues that they would like to address than they could possibly have the have money, time, or inclination to deal with.

That’s why so many issues stimulate so many apparently positive sales conversations that end up going absolutely nowhere. The prospect is interested enough to talk, but not motivated enough to act...

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Topics: B2B Sales, B2B Buying Process, Skills Development

The key to great B2B sales questions - get your prospects to choose

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 21-Aug-2014

You’re probably very familiar with the difference between open and closed questions, and how and where they can be most effectively used in the sales process. At the most basic level, closed questions allow the person asking the question to retain control of the conversation, whilst open questions hand control of the conversation to the person answering the question.

Asking an inappropriate type of question at an inappropriate time can derail the flow of the sales conversation, sometimes without hope of recovery. But there’s another particularly useful class of question that offers the respondent choices, whilst still enabling the questioner to keep control of the conversation…

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Topics: B2B Sales

Why you need to do more than name + define your sales pipeline stages

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 14-Aug-2014

The state of the sales pipeline reflects the health of any sales process - and in anything other than the simplest of sales transactions, that process goes through multiple stages.

Those stages have names. Sometimes they simply reflect phases in the sales process - qualified, proposed, selected, etc. There’s been a recent trend towards naming the stages after key steps in the buying decision process.

If you’re seeking to co-ordinate the efforts of multiple sales people, it's obvious that those pipeline stages not only need to be named, they need to be defined in a clear and unambiguous way. But that's not enough...

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Why are so many B2B software demos so bad?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 5-Aug-2014

Why do so many B2B software demonstrations fail to move the customer to do anything beyond hoping that it might end soon? Why do they so often descend into a serial showcase of irrelevant functionality?

In short, why are so many demos so bad? I’ve sat through too many truly tedious demonstrations in my time. No doubt you have, as well (if not, you’ve clearly led a charmed and blameless life).

So what’s wrong? I think there’s a simple explanation: too many salespeople are demonstrating the wrong things. Let me explain what I mean…

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Topics: B2B Sales

The essential keys to proactive sales pipeline management

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 22-Jul-2014

Talk to almost any CEO of a technology-based, B2B-focused business and you’re likely to hear concerns about the size of their sales pipeline, the accuracy of their sales forecasts and their ability to grow market share.

Bigger isn’t always better…

But the obvious conclusion – “we need to grow our pipeline” – isn’t always the right answer. Far too many sales pipelines are clogged with inadequately qualified opportunities that are going nowhere slowly.

These poorly qualified opportunities serve to confuse, to obfuscate the true value of the pipeline, and to divert scarce sales and marketing resources from identifying, engaging qualifying and winning more of the right sort of prospects.

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Topics: B2B Sales, Revenue Management, Sales Management

What are you reading for?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Fri 18-Jul-2014

There’s a very funny Bill Hicks sketch set in an American diner in which the gum-chewing waitress approaches him, leans over his table, sees he has a paperback open, and asks him “What are you reading for?”

Not “what are you reading”, but “what are you reading for”, as if reading was some form of unnatural act (unnatural acts being a subject that Hicks - as his fans will know - had more than a passing acquaintance with).

I was reminded of Hick’s sketch when I recently helped to interview a candidate for the Marketing Director position with one of my clients. I asked them what they read in order to get inspiration, and the answer disturbed me…

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Topics: B2B Marketing, B2B Sales, Thought Leaders

What have you done to identify your ideal customers?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 16-Jul-2014

Why is it that so many B2B organisations are so unhappy with the returns on their marketing investments, with the accuracy of their sales forecasts, and with the efficiency with which they are able to convert leads into customers?

Why is it that so many sales people are so often so dissatisfied with the quality of leads provided by marketing? And why is it that so many marketing teams are so frustrated with the failure of sales to follow up on the leads they have generated?

This is such a common phenomenon that many people, and many organisations, have come to believe that it is an invitable consequence of the often fractured relationship between sales and marketing. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

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Topics: B2B Marketing, B2B Sales, B2B Buying Process, Aberdeen Group

Lessons from JFK’s inaugural about sales and marketing messaging

Posted by Bob Apollo on Fri 11-Jul-2014

On a bitterly cold winter’s day 53 years ago in January 1961, the newly elected President John F Kennedy set out his agenda for change in an inaugural address that was carried around the world.

More than half-a-century on, his address is considered among the finest presidential inaugural speeches in American history, and contains the memorable and oft-quoted appeal to his fellow Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”.

It’s an inspiring thought, and one that can serve to inspire a more enlightened approach to the way we communicate with our prospects and customers…

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Topics: B2B Marketing, B2B Sales, Sales + Marketing Alignment

How to avoid false signals from automated lead scoring

Posted by Bob Apollo on Sun 6-Jul-2014

Two years ago, I chaired a discussion group at a digital marketing conference on the subject of lead scoring and nurturing - and emerged thoroughly depressed (if unsurprised) by what I heard.

The participants were all apparently experienced B2B marketers, but their implementation of lead scoring had been almost universally unsatisfactory. I’m not convinced that things have improved very much in the meantime.

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Topics: B2B Marketing

Are your sales people merely communicating value - or creating it?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 3-Jul-2014

One of the problems with creating generic “unique value propositions” is that they are just that - generic. They might be a useful basis for communicating mass-marketing messages, but they are not a suitable basis for a truly productive sales conversation.

To be truly effective - and to have real impact - your sales people need to be crafting uniquely customised value propositions for each individual prospect (and often each significant stakeholder).

If that sounds like hard work, it is. But here’s why it is worth it…

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Topics: B2B Sales





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