A Simple Guide to Sales Process Design for the Complex Sale

THE KEYS TO SCALABLE SELLING: the Latest Insights from Inflexion-Point

Why sales leaders need to focus on outcomes, not activities

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 21-Jun-2016

I’ve been seeing a lot of attention paid recently to activity-based sales management. Put simply, it’s the principle that sales managers need to give their sales people targets for measurable activity levels such as the number of calls made, meetings arranged or demos given.

The theory is that the more activity sales people undertake, the more likely they are to be successful, and there may be indeed be some correlation between activity and results in high volume transactional sales environments. But the relationship is nowhere near as clear in complex B2B sales environments, and an obsessive focus on activity levels can end up driving entirely the wrong behaviour…

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Neil Rackham reveals the changing face of selling (and updates "SPIN")

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 16-Jun-2016

The recent Association of Professional Sales conference in London brought together over 500 delegates with a single shared obsession: to learn how to transform our sales organisations into a source of lasting competitive advantage.

We heard from expert authors and roll-our-sleeves-up practitioners, and everyone emerged with a stream of practical ideas that could be immediately applied to the goal of finding and winning more of the right sort of customers.

I was intrigued to hear Neil Rackham’s update on SPIN® selling, in which he showed how what is probably the world’s most widely adopted complex sales methodology remains highly relevant in today’s demanding sales environment…

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The dumbest opening question a salesperson can ask

Posted by Bob Apollo on Fri 10-Jun-2016

No doubt we’ve all been the recipients of bad advice, and occasionally and unwittingly may have offered bad advice to others. But there’s one piece of advice that I still see offered by so-called sales experts (the latest only yesterday) who frankly ought to know better.

Whenever I hear the dreaded phrase it raises my hackles and if I’m any judge of the readership base for these articles it ought to have the same effect on you.

If it doesn’t, you probably want to unsubscribe now, because I imagine you’ll end up disagreeing with many of the other positions I’m going to take in the future.

Today's focus is on what I have come to believe is the dumbest opening question a sales person could possibly ask (and trust me, there are a lot of questions that could qualify for that award, so the competition is pretty tough)…

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Is this project possible, probable or inevitable?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Fri 3-Jun-2016

We all know how hard it is to accurately qualify sales opportunities. We all know how often even apparently well-qualified opportunities get delayed or abandoned altogether. And you’re probably tired of my quoting the CSO Insights research that fewer than 50% of forecasted opportunities actually close as predicted.

The problem is that the prospect is running to their agenda, not ours. They are driven by their timeframes, not ours. And - most significant of all - they are driven by priorities that inevitably span multiple projects and purchase opportunities - and which can change at a moment’s notice.

That’s why it’s so important that our sales people accurately determine whether the customer’s situation means that the project or purchase we’re discussing with them is possible, probable or so inevitable that it will go ahead as planned come hell, high water or a market meltdown...

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McKinsey, HBR: How much support do your sales people need?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 31-May-2016

There is some fascinating research just published in the Harvard Business Review by a group of McKinsey consultants. They sought an evidence-based approach to optimising the balance between front line sales people and sales support roles - and their conclusions may surprise you.

It’s an important question because having the appropriate level and type of back office support is critical to maximising the productivity and effectiveness of your quota-carrying sales people. But - unfortunately - it’s a balancing act that many organisations seem to struggle to get right…

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The keys to Improving Sales Forecast Accuracy

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 24-May-2016

As we're all very well aware, complex sales are complicated. There are subject to a wide range of factors that are outside of our direct control. It's no wonder that forecasting if and when any individual deal is likely to come in is such a challenge.

Research by CSO Insights has shown that less than half of forecasted deals actually close on the date and at the value originally expected. Many close dates slip (often repeatedly) and many of these forecasted deals never close at all.

If you’re in a short cycle transactional sales environment, high deal volumes and the law of averages can blur the impact of this uncertainty. But if you’re involved in a high-value long sales cycle situation the impact on revenue can be much more serious…

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Modern Selling - Art, Science AND Engineering

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 18-May-2016

B2B selling has become increasingly complex. Every sales leader today understands this, and it’s obvious we need to take steps to increase the effectiveness of our sales processes.

I believe that modern selling is not just a heady blend of art and science - it also benefits from applying an engineering mindset. Engineering is about finding repeatable, implementable solutions to common problems. If you want to scale a sales organization, you need the ability to encapsulate critical information and apply it in a way that drives repeatable results.

I recently talked about this challenge with Cara Hogan, the host of Ramp, InsightSquared’s SaaS analytics podcast. I hope you'll find the conversation as stimulating as I did...

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Who’s Buying? Identifying the Right Stakeholders in Your Deal

Posted by Jakob Soderberg - Arpedio on Wed 4-May-2016

This is the first in a series of guest posts by Jakob Soderberg of our partners Arpedio.

Who’s buying your solution? If you answer this question with one or two titles, there’s a good chance you’re wrong.

How buyers buy has fundamentally changed. Sales professionals are no longer selling to one or two high-ranking executives. The average buying group has evolved to multiple stakeholders* from various parts of the organisation. A buying group today could include a CXO, a departmental executive, a compliance manager, an IT security manager, a procurement manager, a marketing executive, and others.

Think about that for a second. As a sales professional, you’re no longer selling to the CXO or VP of X. You’re now selling to a much larger group of individuals, each with their own motivations, concerns and priorities. And that group changes from organisation to organisation.

That’s a pretty significant shift – one that underscores an urgent question: how do you know who your stakeholders are in any given deal? Furthermore, who among these stakeholders will help you move the buying group towards consensus?

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Identifying Your Ideal Customers

Posted by Bob Apollo on Fri 29-Apr-2016

Market segmentation has traditionally been based on demographic factors such as company size, sector and location. But these simple characteristics are hopelessly inadequate predictors of which specific organisations you should focus your marketing and sales energies on.

That’s because in any complex B2B sales environment, there will be a set of specific unique-to-you structural, behavioural and situational characteristics that are much more reliable indicators of the long-term potential of any given organisation, and of your chances of doing business with them either now or in the future.

I’m not suggesting that you should ignore demographics - but I’m urging you not to stop there when it comes to targeting your marketing efforts or assessing the attractiveness of your potential sales opportunities.

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The 5 characteristics of an effective sales process

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 28-Apr-2016

There is abundant evidence to prove that companies with an effective sales process outperform their less disciplined competitors. The latest research from MHI shows a remarkable impact across a range of key performance metrics.

Compared to their peer group, in organisations with an effective sales process:

  • Average win rates are 31% higher
  • 21% more sales people achieve quota
  • Company-wide revenue performance is 17% higher

If asked, most organisations will tell you that they already have a sales process. But in my experience only a few have developed their sales processes to a level that consistently generates a compelling competitive advantage.

10 years of successful client engagements have led me to identify 5 common characteristics of truly effective sales processes. I hope that you’ll be reassured to learn that none involve rocket science…

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