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

Sales Forecasting Essentials - get your definitions right

Posted by Bob Apollo on Mon 12-Oct-2015

There’s nothing more frustrating for a sales leader, a CEO or a Board of Directors than a continued inability to come up with a revenue forecast that consistently hits the target numbers. But - as anyone who has had the responsibility knows only too well, accurate forecasting is a tough task.

That’s particularly true in complex sales environments with multiple variables. And it’s a sad truth that there are no magic wands. But - as I hope to prove in this occasional series on the essentials of effective sales forecasting - there are some basic foundations that need to be laid.

At the most basic level, forecasters - and everyone they depend on for data - have to work off a common set of definitions about what exactly they mean by various forecast categories. It sounds like it ought to be simple, but I’ve been exposed to far too many sales environments where even this most basic objective has not been achieved...

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The Keys to Successfully Implementing “The Challenger Sale”

Posted by Bob Apollo on Fri 9-Oct-2015

I attended the UK launch event for “The Challenger Customer” yesterday (you can read my review of the book here). One of the authors, Nick Toman, gave a quick-fire introduction to the fascinating research into B2B buying behaviour that led to the breakthrough thinking encapsulated in the book.

But just as interesting was the subsequent panel discussion featuring representatives from some of the UK’s largest and most respected corporations, describing the lessons they had learned from putting the principles behind the author’s previous book “The Challenger Sale” into practice.

Needless to say, their real-world experiences were very illuminating…

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Why it's time to STOP "Adding Value"

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 8-Oct-2015

It’s probably the most commonly proposed response to price pressures and commoditisation: if we’re not prepared to cut our prices, we had better add more value for the customer. It’s a reasonable objective, but the sad truth is that most so-called “value-added” strategies simply add cost and complexity without making the offering any more desirable to the customer. In fact, they often have the opposite effect.

It might be a good idea to start by defining exactly what we mean by value. For many product-focused organisations, it’s seen primarily in terms of adding incremental functionality without adding much or anything to the price quoted to the customer. But that’s not how the customer typically views it...

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Why “The Challenger Customer” is a must-read for CEOs and sales leaders

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 6-Oct-2015

When the Challenger Sale was published in 2011, it rapidly became one of the "must read" handbooks for B2B CEOs and sales leaders, with a remarkably powerful word-of-mouth that I hope I contributed to in some small way.

But as I read and re-read the original book, I developed the nagging feeling that something was missing from the message - and in "The Challenger Customer" the authors fill the gap by turning their primary focus from the sales person to the customer.

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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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