The Inflexion-Point Blog: Architecting Revenue Growth

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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Why it's critical that you "nail your niche"

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 7-Apr-2015

How hard can it be for a new entrant to carve out a 1% share of a very large market? The answer, of course, is that it is virtually impossible. If history teaches us anything, it is that organisations that nail their niche with a simple, clear and narrowly defined market focus and then progressively expand into adjacencies do far better than their unfocused competitors.

Having a clearly defined target market or markets is the critical foundation for all other sales and marketing activities. But it’s impossible to accurately nail your niche if you restrict your thinking to the traditional narrow demographic dimensions of size, sector and location. All demographics can ever do is to describe a population. They do nothing to define how a market actually behaves.

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B2B Sales: Why you must systematically target these 3 avoidable errors

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 18-Mar-2015

Sales people and sales leaders have been regularly urged over the years to adopt “best practices” as a way of improving sales performance. I raise my hand and acknowledge that I have been one of the many lobbyists for this approach. But lately I’ve been wondering if maybe I’ve been looking through the wrong end of the telescope.

I’ll acknowledge a debt of gratitude to the author Atul Gawande and his book “the Checklist Manifesto” for causing me to adopt a fresh perspective. Because as I look around at the patchy success of many initiatives that have sought to drive the adoption of best practices, I’ve come to believe that we would be way more effective if we started by simply eliminating the obvious avoidable errors…

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Why sales processes need to support artisans - not create automatons

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 3-Mar-2015

The evidence that formalised sales processes improve sales performance is absolutely overwhelming - a raft of studies have shown that companies that have implemented structured sales processes outperform companies that haven’t by anything from 20-45% or more.  So why are so many companies still so reticent?

I think that a big part of the problem is the feeling that implementing a defined sales process is the equivalent of applying a straightjacket - and that it will somehow restrict the creativity of the sales team. In fact, the evidence clearly suggests the entirely opposite conclusion.

Far from stifling creativity, well-defined sales processes actually release creativity - as long as the processes are thought of as skeletons that support the sales person’s initiative, and not as cages that restrict their ability to think out-of-the box. Here’s why…

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McKinsey help to illuminate changes in b2b buying behaviour

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 19-Feb-2015

A recent article in the McKinsey quarterly has highlighted a phenomenon that many of us have observed: B2B purchasing decisions are tracing increasingly complex journeys - and these changes are challenging the long-standing behaviours of many B2B sales organisations.

It’s becoming increasingly unhelpful (and massively unproductive) to represent sales pipelines in terms of simple traditional linear sales process that sales people are required to follow - because your customers don’t behave that way.

McKinsey’s research identified that B2B customers regularly use an average of six different ways of interacting with vendors to get the information they need - and showed that two-thirds come away frustrated by inconsistent experiences.

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Your customer’s buying process doesn’t have to be a mystery

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 11-Feb-2015

It seems like a self-evident truth, doesn’t it? One of the consistently effective b2b sales strategies is to sell the way your customers want to buy. All you need to do is to understand their buying decision process.

According to research published last year by Hank Barnes of Gartner, your prospects may be more willing than you think to help you understand how they go about making purchase decisions. Not unexpectedly, a quarter said that they view that sort of information as confidential.

But to varying degrees, and depending on how they were asked and on the quality of their relationship with the the vendor and their representative, the remaining three-quarters of the clients Gartner surveyed expressed some degree of willingness to share the information with a sales person…

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Think your salespeople have a closing problem? Think again…

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 10-Feb-2015

I’ve lost count of the number of clients who call me in because they think their sales people have a problem closing new business opportunities, and whilst there often appears to be an issue in that area, in my experience the real problem typically starts much earlier.

You see, when I really dig into the client’s situation, I invariably discover that one of the primary reasons that opportunities aren’t closing is that the opportunities weren’t “opened” the right way in the first place - and no amount of closing skill can make up for that.

No amount of slick language, alternative closes, the introduction of a puppy dog, special pleading or any of the other traditional sales closing techniques can compensate if the opportunity is currently fundamentally un-closable.

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What’s the one thing VCs love even more than growth?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 27-Jan-2015

Of course, every VC wants to see their portfolio companies grow. But as Scott Maxwell of OpenView Venture Partners points out in a persuasive recent blog (link below), companies that deliver predictable revenue are regarded as even more valuable.

Now, if you’re still at the pre-revenue stage, your revenue projections have no way of being validated - although they will have hopefully been based on something more substantial than what a prominent investor once colourfully described to me as “rectal research” ;-)

But as soon as your organisation has reached that all important post-startup growth stage and before you start looking for that next wave of expansion capital, you had better start managing by the numbers…

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Why your sales funnel needs to leak from the top, not the bottom

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 13-Jan-2015

Let’s face it, every sales funnel leaks. It’s just that some seem to leak more than others - and many are leaking in all the wrong places. It’s a particular challenge in complex sales environments, where significant effort has to be expended to get any deal over the goal line.

The effort and resources that goes into opportunities that are eventually lost to a competitor, or to a decision to “do nothing” cannot usually be recovered. Now, some measure of wastage has to be expected - but a significant amount of that waste could be avoided.

In complex sales pipelines around the world, there is a substantial proportion of opportunities that are destined to be lost or abandoned. What we need to do is to recognise them early, before we’ve invested a bunch of unnecessary time and effort in them...

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