The Inflexion-Point Blog: Selling on Value

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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The problem with assigning fixed percentages to pipeline stages

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 2-Jul-2015

On average, fewer than 50% of forecasted opportunities close at the predicted value and time - and the figure is usually far worse in early stage companies without an established track record of successfully closing business.

Its no wonder that revenue forecast accuracy is a huge frustration for CEOs and a frequent source of tension with both their Board of Directors and their sales leadership. After all, how hard can it be to work out when an opportunity a sales person been pursuing for months is going to close?

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Forrester: 4 types of B2B buyer = 4 types of B2B seller

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 9-Jun-2015

There’s a lot of attention been paid to Forrester’s recent projection that 1 million B2B sales people are going to lose their jobs to self-service eCommerce by 2020 in the US alone. Their report highlights the growing disconnect between B2B buying preferences and traditional B2B selling behaviours.

But the projected decline in sales force numbers isn’t universal. Forrester identify 4 types of B2B buying environment and match them with 4 types of sales profile - and one of those sales profiles isn’t in decline - it’s actually projected to grow. Unsurprisingly, it’s all connected with the value that sales people can bring to these different buying environments…

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Why you don’t need any sales stages in your sales pipeline

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 4-Jun-2015

The above assertion might appear counter-intuitive, but please bear with me. I’m going to try and make the case that you don’t need - and in fact you shouldn’t have - any sales stages in your sales pipeline.

I’m not arguing that you don’t need a sales pipeline. Far from it. The universe would probably grind to a halt if every sales organisation decided to abandon their pipeline. I’m just convinced that there’s a far better way of managing it than by using sales stages.

The alternative? It’s to value your pipeline and measure your progress with reference to the stage your prospects are at in their buying decision process. In other words, you don’t need sales stages - you need buying stages

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It’s time to kick the Shih Tzu out of buyer personas

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 2-Jun-2015

B2B marketers are directing an increasing percentage of their energy and budget towards content creation. But the consequent focus on quantity rather than quality is leaving B2B buyers unimpressed: according to Peter O'Neill of Forrester, more than 3 out of 4 believe that vendors are generating too much material for them to sort through.

Much of the content is simply a weakly disguised product pitch. But even when the content addresses a relevant issue, it often leaves the reader feeling that they have been subjected to a worthless re-hash of ideas they were already familiar with, and that they have learned nothing new.

One thing is obvious: if you don’t know what your target audience is likely to see value in, you’re unlikely to be able to create the sort of content that will engage them and make them want to learn more. So B2B marketers are now seeking salvation in buyer personas - but many are making unfortunate and avoidable errors in their implementation…

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The second most important moment in any B2B sales campaign

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 26-May-2015

There’s a reasonable case to be made that the most important moment in the management of any successful sales opportunity is the point at which you receive a bookable, revenue recognisable order - and it’s hard to argue anything different.

There’s also a pretty good case to be made that the second most important moment in the management of any successful sales opportunity is the point at which the project can be shown to have satisfied your (hopefully thoughtfully-defined) qualification criteria.

But I want to suggest - particularly for complex B2B sales environments - that there’s another critical phase in the evolution of successful sales opportunities that can make all the difference to whether or not you ultimately succeed.

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Why B2B Sales has to confront the Value Gap

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 14-May-2015

In survey after survey, the average sales person’s inability to effectively communicate the value of their offering has been rated as the most frustrating challenge facing today’s CEOs and Heads of Sales.

They are right to be concerned. The statistics are truly horrible.

When Forrester talked to B2B buyers, they reported that only 1 in 10 sales people were effective at communicating value rather than simply pitching their solution. But simply getting smarter about articulating the value of your solution will not make this problem go away. Here’s why…

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