Complex Sales: How Solution Category affects Organisational Structure

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 4-Feb-2016

One of the critical questions that every expansion-phase B2B focused company needs to consider is “what’s the most appropriate Sales and Business Development organisation structure for our product or service offering”?

There is no single perfect answer to this - but the choices you make have a huge impact on your ability to create and close the maximum number of qualified opportunities, as quickly as possible.

As well as taking into account the packaging and price points of your product or service, it is important to pay close attention to the expectations and needs of your buyers.

You obviously need to identify the problems that your solution solves, focus on the types of organisations are most likely to suffer from these issues and distinguish which roles are most likely to lead the search for a solution. But there's more...

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Complex sales challenges: balancing capability and reputation

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 28-Jan-2016

What happens if you’re competing against a much less advanced solution from a company with a much better established reputation? It’s a situation that many expansion-stage SaaS businesses find themselves in. And unlike their longer-established competitors, every sale involves winning a new customer rather than upselling into the installed base.

Having the “best solution” is no guarantee of sales success, and every potential customer is weighing up the potential for transforming their business against the risk of the unknown. It’s a tough brief, and I’ve got enormous respect for the sales people who manage to master it. Here’s what I’ve learned from observing them in action…

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The 2 critical factors behind B2B sales forecast confidence

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 26-Jan-2016

Regular readers will recall that I am no great fan of the default approach taken by so many CRM vendors, in which individual opportunity forecast probabilities are based on applying the same percentage to every opportunity that has reached a given stage in the sales process.

Many CRM users simply accept the default “out of the box” percentages without questioning them, or validating them against actual outcomes, or are confused about whether the % is measuring progress through the process or the probability of winning.

It’s no wonder that sales forecasts are often so wildly inaccurate. But there is a better way of thinking about this…

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Why it’s best to say “no” before your prospect does

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 20-Jan-2016

Many sales people seem to have an abiding fear of hearing the word “no”.

As a result, they go to often-extraordinary lengths to avoid asking questions that might cause the prospect to give them a negative answer that will kill the deal.

But this desire to avoid negative answers usually turns out to be an entirely counter-productive strategy, and here’s why…

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The Buyer’s Journey: Why Change? > What To? > Why You?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 13-Jan-2016

It’s awfully hard for many sales people to resist the “itch to pitch” when they come across a prospect that seems a perfect fit for their solution. After all, why would they want to hold back? It turns out that there are many compelling reasons why rushing to present your solution is a really bad idea.

Closing a sale in one call might be possible in some transactional sales environments - in fact it may be the only economic way of dealing with low-value opportunities. But in complex, high-value buying decisions, the last thing most prospects are interested in at the start of their buying journey are the fine details or unique capabilities of your solution. Here’s why

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B2B Sales: are you compelling enough to close?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 7-Jan-2016

I’ve come to believe that it’s essential to separate B2B sales opportunities into two categories: in the first group (let’s call them inevitable purchases) the customer is invariably going to buy something within a fairly tightly defined timeframe. The critical questions are what, when and who from - but something is bound to happen.

The second group (let’s call them discretionary purchases) are far harder to predict and manage. It’s by no means inevitable that the customer will do anything. They could - and often do - end up sticking with the status quo. When sales people fail to distinguish the difference, they tend to plough ahead and try to sell their solution without recognising that the customer isn’t yet convinced they have a problem or that they need to solve it.

This can result in some disastrous misreading of the prospect’s true situation and intentions - and looking from the outside-in, I believe that this ought to be a critical development priority for a significant number of sales organisations…

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Why sales forecasts go wrong - and what to do about it...

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 5-Jan-2016

I hope that you enjoyed the holiday season, and are returning to work re-energised and determined to achieve some ambitious goals in 2016. But I wonder if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to do a better job of sales forecasting?

If so, I want to share a few ideas that may help you start the New Year - and finish the first quarter - as you mean to continue…

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Why untested assumptions will kill your Q4 closes

Posted by Bob Apollo on Sun 22-Nov-2015

It's the 22nd November, we're well into Q4 and for many organisations - and many B2B sales people - that haven't yet achieved their 2015 revenue goals, it's the most critical period of the year.  In practical terms, we've probably got 4 weeks of active selling time - 5 if we're lucky. In the US, the Thanksgiving holiday is about to eat into that precious time.

You're probably still depending on a number of deals to make your number. Now more than ever, you've got to rely on your sales people to execute flawlessly, and hope that your prospects do what you want them to do.

But if that hope is based on assumption, rather than a mutual commitment to an agreed close plan, you had better prepare to be disappointed. Let's not forget that hope is not (and should never be) a strategy. A number of clients have found the following checklist invaluable when determining whether the deals they are depending on have a real chance of closing - so that they can address the weaknesses before it is too late. I offer them to you in the hope that you might find them equally useful...

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Complex Sales: the #1 rule when responding to RFPs

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 18-Nov-2015


Unless, of course, you have played a significant role in shaping the prospect’s requirements and the timing and contents of the RFP comes as no surprise. Or if you’re unfortunate enough to be selling into a government department that is only allowed to buy that way*.

If you’re in a regular commercial complex b2b sales environment and the RFP arrives out of the blue, even if you can convince yourself that you could be in with a chance, it’s almost certain that you are simply column fodder, invited in to make up the numbers. The statistics are painful...

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Never mind the Sharks - what about the Piranhas?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 12-Nov-2015

The most dangerous competition in B2B sales often comes from an unexpected quarter. I fondly remember working at SCO in early 1990’s, when we held 85% of the UNIX-on-Intel market - an astonishing share of an established market. Of course, we didn’t simply rest on our laurels. We anticipated that our competition might come from the top down - vendors like Sun, HP or IBM bringing their offerings down to our price point, or from the bottom up - Microsoft turning NT into a rock solid commercial platform (which it eventually became), and we defended our territory with these threats in mind.

But it turned out that our most dangerous competition - one that would overwhelm a once-dominant market leader in a few short years - came from an unanticipated quarter - the Open Source movement. The real threat wasn’t well established vendors with well understood business models like HP, Sun, IBM or Microsoft after all - it was a handful of visionary companies who were able to completely disrupt the market with a revolutionary business model. It turns out that we were so worried about the Sharks that we ignored the Piranhas. The lesson is just as relevant today…

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