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SELL THE DIFFERENCE: Establishing your Unique Solution Value

Critical to B2B sales success - stakeholder assessments

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 29-Nov-2017

One of the most common reasons why apparently promising B2B sales opportunities get derailed - often at a late stage in our sales cycle - is that we have failed to identify all the key stakeholders or to understand how to get them all to support our approach.

There’s a similar explanation for why many accounts fail to realise their potential - we end up becoming over reliant on a few regular contacts and fail to identify or engage with the other stakeholders that could enable us to maximise our opportunities.

It’s a sad fact that many deals that are currently being forecasted to close before the end of 2017 will fade away or be lost for the same reason. So, this is probably a timely opportunity to remind ourselves of the critical importance of identifying, understanding and engaging all the stakeholders that our sales success must ultimately depend on…

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Why having a budget isn’t always a positive qualifier …

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 28-Nov-2017

John Holland of CustomerCentric Selling® makes an interesting point in a blog article. Many sales people who have been brought up on an over-literal interpretation of BANT may believe that the absence of a budget for a project should be a reason to disqualify an opportunity.

This may be valid in simple transactional sales, but in complex high-value discretionary B2B purchases our interpretation of the apparent presence or absence of a budget needs to be much more nuanced. Firstly, it’s important to distinguish between a project-specific formal budget and a source of funds that can be reallocated from other priorities.

As John points out, if there is no clear source of funding, it’s almost certainly a sign that we are operating at too low a level and that our current contact does not have the authority or ability to act as a power sponsor. If a project is important enough, a power sponsor will always be able to find the money (by shifting it from another pot).

Counter-intuitively, if a project-specific project budget does already exist, it may be a sign (and a warning) that another vendor is already making the running, and that they may have set the prospect’s expectations not just in terms of cost, but also functionality.

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Revisiting the Buyers Journey

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 5-Oct-2017

I can still remember the powerful inspiration I gained from my first reading of Hugh Macfarlane’s “The Leaky Funnel” – the 2003 book that first drew the B2B sales and marketing community’s attention to the concept of the buyer’s journey.

Hugh was the one of the first people to clearly articulate a practical and effective framework for systematically identifying and addressing our customer’s problems rather than simply promoting our products, services or so-called “solutions”.

The strategy clearly works. So why is it, nearly a decade-and-a-half later, that so many B2B sales and marketing organisations still think in terms of driving a sales process (assuming they actually have one), rather than facilitating their prospect’s buying decision process?

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Stop confusing “objections” with concerns

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 16-Aug-2017

Almost every traditional book on sales methodologies has a section on overcoming objections. The techniques proposed often seem to be manipulative and self-serving. They often come across like an attempt to outwit the customer.

The problem lies in our choice of words. When someone “objects” to something, they are expressing disagreement, disapproval, refusal or opposition. The language is inherently confrontational. We’re applying the wrong mental model when we label our customers’ legitimate questions as objections - and we’re making it harder to deal with them.

Because, most of the time, our customer’s “objection” isn’t actually a statement of disagreement, disapproval, refusal or opposition - it’s simply an expression of an unresolved concern…

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In complex B2B sales, you face 3 types of competition

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 23-Feb-2017

Most B2B sales people have a narrow sense of competition. They usually restrict their thinking to other vendors in the same market sector. But this absurdly narrow definition of whom or what they are really competing against is causing them to ignore some of the most significant forces that often stand in the way of a sale.

In complex B2B sales environments, and particularly in those where the purchase is discretionary (where the customer could and often does ultimately decide to simply stick with the status quo) the competitive landscape is much more complicated.

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When demographics aren’t enough: how to identify your ideal customers

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 22-Sep-2016

Traditional market segmentation is usually based around the core demographic attributes of company size, sector and location: for example, we might choose to target medical equipment companies turning over £100-250m located in the South East of England.

But, as many sales organisations have learned, this simple approach to segmentation really only scratches the surface, and tells us very little about whether any individual organisation is likely to be a prospect from our solution now or at any time in the future.

That’s because demographics are only really useful for defining populations - our potential target universe - but are a wholly inadequate way of identifying markets...

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The 2 critical factors behind B2B sales forecast confidence

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 26-Jan-2016

Regular readers will recall that I am no great fan of the default approach taken by so many CRM vendors, in which individual opportunity forecast probabilities are based on applying the same percentage to every opportunity that has reached a given stage in the sales process.

Many CRM users simply accept the default “out of the box” percentages without questioning them, or validating them against actual outcomes, or are confused about whether the % is measuring progress through the process or the probability of winning.

It’s no wonder that sales forecasts are often so wildly inaccurate. But there is a better way of thinking about this…

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The Buyer’s Journey: Why Change? > What To? > Why You?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 13-Jan-2016

It’s awfully hard for many sales people to resist the “itch to pitch” when they come across a prospect that seems a perfect fit for their solution. After all, why would they want to hold back? It turns out that there are many compelling reasons why rushing to present your solution is a really bad idea.

Closing a sale in one call might be possible in some transactional sales environments - in fact it may be the only economic way of dealing with low-value opportunities. But in complex, high-value buying decisions, the last thing most prospects are interested in at the start of their buying journey are the fine details or unique capabilities of your solution. Here’s why

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B2B Sales: are you compelling enough to close?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 7-Jan-2016

I’ve come to believe that it’s essential to separate B2B sales opportunities into two categories: in the first group (let’s call them inevitable purchases) the customer is invariably going to buy something within a fairly tightly defined timeframe. The critical questions are what, when and who from - but something is bound to happen.

The second group (let’s call them discretionary purchases) are far harder to predict and manage. It’s by no means inevitable that the customer will do anything. They could - and often do - end up sticking with the status quo. When sales people fail to distinguish the difference, they tend to plough ahead and try to sell their solution without recognising that the customer isn’t yet convinced they have a problem or that they need to solve it.

This can result in some disastrous misreading of the prospect’s true situation and intentions - and looking from the outside-in, I believe that this ought to be a critical development priority for a significant number of sales organisations…

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Complex Sales: the #1 rule when responding to RFPs

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 18-Nov-2015

DON'T RESPOND!

Unless, of course, you have played a significant role in shaping the prospect’s requirements and the timing and contents of the RFP comes as no surprise. Or if you’re unfortunate enough to be selling into a government department that is only allowed to buy that way*.

If you’re in a regular commercial complex b2b sales environment and the RFP arrives out of the blue, even if you can convince yourself that you could be in with a chance, it’s almost certain that you are simply column fodder, invited in to make up the numbers. The statistics are painful...

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