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Actionable ideas for improving B2B sales and marketing performance

The 3 critical dimensions of sales coaching

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 23-Oct-2014

Having observed a number of B2B sales organisations over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that sales training is over-rated, and sales coaching is under-appreciated. In fact, I believe that their ability to coach their sales people is the critical skill of frontline sales managers.

Sales training and sales coaching are clearly linked. We’ve all read the statistics that prove that without on-going reinforcement through day-to-day coaching, most sales training is a wasted investment - forgotten or ignored within a just few weeks.

But capable coaches go far beyond simply reinforcing their organisation’s chosen sales methodology - they develop the sales people under their care in a rich variety of different ways that enable them to realise their potential.

Sales coaching contributes to the performance of the individual and the organisation in at least 3 different levels: at the team level, at the individual level and at the opportunity level - and no sales coaching programme can be called complete until and unless it addresses all three aspects.

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Topics: Sales Enablement, B2B Buying Process, Sales Management

B2B sales: How to close 42% more business

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 15-Oct-2014

According to the smart folks at Sales Benchmark Index (SBI), companies that have taken the time to adopt and implement a consistent and effective sales process close on average 42% more business than organisations that don't.

It’s the sort of percentage that makes the difference between success or failure, between keeping your job or losing it, and between beating your quota or being beaten by it.

But having a process doesn’t mean turning sales people into automatons - far from it. In fact, there’s abundant evidence that having a sound process actually frees up sales people to be creative.

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Topics: B2B Buying Process

The 5 levels of lead qualification

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 9-Oct-2014

Sirius Decisions recently published some very interesting research into the subject of when marketing-generated “leads” are regarded as being “sales ready”. The results surprised me, and I suspect that they might surprise you, as well...

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Topics: B2B Sales, Revenue Management

B2B marketing: claiming you’re better isn’t always the best strategy

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 7-Oct-2014

Technology-based businesses, with a few notable exceptions, have an unfortunate and self-limiting habit of selling on specification - and of believing that positioning their product or service as faster, cheaper or better is the key to making customers want to buy.

Whilst there are visible examples of that strategy working in rapid replacement cycle consumer markets like smartphones, there are three obvious problems with that line of thinking in high-value considered-purchase business-to-business situations.

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Topics: B2B Marketing, Unique Value Position

B2B marketing: from one-way communications to two-way conversations

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 2-Oct-2014

The trouble with far too many of today’s interactions between prospects and their potential suppliers is that they are conducted as asynchronous communications rather than synchronous conversations.

You’re probably on the receiving end of hundreds (maybe thousands) of these one-way communications every day. They include every conventional advert you’re exposed to, every mass email that is sent to you and a whole raft of other marketing devices.

And the reason you probably are moved to action by so few of these messages is that this media deluge still largely reflects a process of asynchronous broadcast communications to a largely unreceptive audience.

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Topics: B2B Marketing

The B2B buying decision process: challenging the 57% myth

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 30-Sep-2014

It’s a statistic that’s been widely quoted and even more widely misunderstood - the idea that the typical modern B2B buying decision process is “57% complete” before the customer even talks to the supplier.

Or you may have seen it quoted as “65%” or “two thirds”. It doesn’t matter, because all the figures are precisely wrong.

I think the original statistic came from a CEB* study but it has been naively interpreted and driven many thoughtless conclusions. You see, like many statistics, it’s simply a headline-grabbing average that hides a wide variation in actual behaviour.

Subsequent studies by other organisations - including one by IDC - have revealed subtleties that any B2B sales and marketing organisation need to take into consideration before they decide to make far-reaching changes to their go-to-market strategy…

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Topics: B2B Buying Process

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





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