BLOG: SELLING IN THE BREAKTHROUGH ZONE

Why our sales discovery process must always be two-way

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 13-Jun-2018

I’ve written before about the critical importance of the discovery process in complex B2B sales. It’s a favourite subject, and with good reason - in my experience the quality of initial discovery is a vital predictor of subsequent sales success.

But it’s critically important that the discovery exercise doesn't just involve us asking the prospective customer a series of questions that are primarily aimed at helping us to qualify the account, the contact and the opportunity.

If discovery is seen by our prospect as only being for our benefit, it’s all-too-easy for these discussions to descend into a relentlessly one-directional “20-Questions” process that can easily discourage our potential customer from continuing the conversation.

Read More

Why your salespeople should never do product demonstrations

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 7-Jun-2018

I imagine we’ve all sat through at least one of these at some stage of our careers: a software demonstration that is nothing more or less than a relentless and apparently never-ending stream of product features thrown out at the audience in the misguided hope that at least some of them might prove relevant or attractive.

It’s a horrible and unproductive tactic: assuming that our prospective customer hasn’t already zoned out, it places responsibility on them to imagine whether this or that widget might have any relevance to something that is important to them.

This seems to be a particular problem for technically-orientated demonstrators: they are often so proud of how clever their product is that they can’t resist introducing yet another feature of function. There’s no story, no coherence, and no respect for the audience.

Yes, demonstrations - at the right time, and in the right context - can be a vital element of a successful sales cycle. I just believe that there’s a much better way of achieving this than doing a conventional product demonstration...

Read More

Is this the most counterproductive sales metric?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 5-Jun-2018

If we’re driven by data and interested in statistics, there are a wide range of sales metrics we can choose to monitor. Assuming that we have collected the data in the first place, we can measure win rates, sales cycle velocity, changes in deal value or close date and all manner of other indicators.

If our data is good enough and we know how to interpret it, and if we are able to slice and dice it (and I realise that these are big “ifs”) then we can come to some powerful and illuminating conclusions about how and where we can most effectively improve sales performance and revenue reliability.

But I have in mind a metric that’s rather easier to measure - even with the least sophisticated CRM system or spreadsheet - and yet is capable of driving desperately dysfunctional behaviours if it is not used in an intelligent fashion. Can you guess what it is?

Read More

Is sales “process” really the right metaphor?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 31-May-2018

The term “sales process” has become an almost universal cliché (and yes, I have been as guilty as the rest). Research is regularly published to prove that organisations with a defined “sales process” outperform their less well organised competitors.

In simple, high-volume sales environments - where success is often seen as a numbers game, and where sales people do not need to be overly sophisticated in their approach - I can see how having a process can help.

But in complex, lengthy, high-value sales environments that require sophisticated sales skills, the idea of a rigid, universally applied and consistently implemented step-by-step sales process seems increasingly inappropriate and ineffective.

I’m writing this article today because I’ve just listened to a video that likened a sales process to the step-by-step, corner-by-corner instructions we might get from a satellite navigation system. This seems to me to be an entirely inappropriate metaphor, and here’s why...

Read More

How do you create value for your customers?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 29-May-2018

With relatively few exceptions, most companies want to be seen to be focused on value, rather than price. You can understand why: in most markets there is only space for one or at most a very few “cost leaders”.

You can see the trend reflected in the number of organisations that claim to have a “value added” strategy. But these positions are often adopted without any clear understanding of how they actually create genuine value for their customers.

More often, their “value added” claims are really intended to justify why they are entitled to charge a premium for extended feature sets and capabilities, most of which only a minority of customers actually end up using.

The rest are left feeling that they are probably being asked to overpay for things that they don’t actually need...

Read More

Is scope creep suffocating your opportunities?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 22-May-2018

Most sales organisations would agree that increasing average deal values is a positive objective, along with shortening sales cycles and improving win rates.

But the same is not necessarily true when it comes to specific sales opportunities. In fact, as a client recently acknowledged, attempts to maximise the initial deal size can often have serious negative consequences.

In striving to increase the value of the deal, we can sometimes make the purchase process more complicated than it would otherwise need to be and delay the final decision.

That’s why, particularly in new customer situations, it’s often better to adopt a “land and expand” strategy...

Read More

12 key sales qualifiers

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 10-May-2018

Early, accurate qualification is critical to success in complex B2B sales. It allows us to identify the opportunities that we have a real chance of winning, and it allows us to quickly eliminate poorly qualified deals from our pipeline.

In my experience (and hopefully yours as well), one of the key factors that separates top performing sales people from the rest is that they have too much respect for their own time to waste it pursuing opportunities they are never likely to win.

They qualify hard, and they qualify early, while their less confident colleagues cling on to prospects that by any rational analysis are never likely to close - and waste a huge amount of their time (and that of their colleagues) in the process.

For years, the default mechanism for qualifying sales opportunities was BANT (Budget, Authority, Need and Timeframe) - but it is now so inadequate and inappropriate that I shudder when I hear of sales teams that are still using it. Here’s why...

Read More

We’re NOT Average

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 8-May-2018

Mark Twain is said to have popularised the phrase “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics". In an amusing variation, an obviously learned British judge is said to have categorised witnesses into three classes: “simple liars, damned liars, and experts”.

It often feels like we’re being bombarded by streams of re-quoted, out-of-context statistics from so-called or self-declared experts (often to justify self-labelled “thought leadership” that turns out to be nothing of the sort). And yes, I’ve been guilty of it myself. Maybe you have too.

There’s a fairly standard formula to this: a statistic is quoted, often out of context, and without regard to the limitations of the study from which it was drawn and then used to justify what is in all probability a spurious conclusion. And yes, I’ve probably been guilty of that as well.

But averages are NOT absolute. And none of us, and none of our customers, are average, either. So, it’s time to stop behaving as if we and they are...

Read More

Shaping our customer's "why"...

Posted by Bob Apollo on Mon 30-Apr-2018

I recently shared my thoughts about applying Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why” concept (also known as The Golden Circle) to the sales process - you can read the article here.

I used Sinek’s framework to make the point that our best customers don’t just buy what we do, they buy into why we have chosen to do it and are prepared to pay a premium for how we do it.

Being able to articulate our why - and going on to explain how our approach is distinctively different and capable of driving superior outcomes for our customer - is a critical advantage in complex B2B sales.

But what about our prospective customer’s why and how - the reason why they believe they need to change and their vision of how they are going to make that change happen? What can we do to influence their thinking?

Read More

Starting with “Why”

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 26-Apr-2018

In September 2009, Simon Sinek took the stage at a TEDx event and delivered an 18-minute presentation that has now been viewed around 50 million times across a variety of different sites.

In it, Sinek offered a model for inspirational leadership that he explored in his best-selling “Start With Why”. He has gone on to be widely recognised as an expert in how leading organisations and people think, act and communicate.

I’m a fan. I believe what he believes.

If you’re unfamiliar with Sinek’s work, I’ve included a link to his presentation below. His concept of the Golden Circle - grounded in the biology of human decision making - helps us understand why some messages resonate while others fail. And it has tremendous relevance for successful B2B sales conversations...

Read More