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SELL THE DIFFERENCE: Establishing your Unique Solution Value

B2B sales: which opportunities are REALLY likely to close in 2015?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 29-Oct-2015

It’s coming up to the end of October, and if you’re in high-value, long-decision-cycle, multiple-stakeholder enterprise sales, it means that you effectively have a month-and-a-half of selling time before everything starts to slow down or stop for the holiday season.

It’s important to avoid surprises: it turns out that there are a handful of critical opportunity criteria that your B2B sales people MUST pay attention to if they are going to have a real chance of closing deals this year, rather than have them slip into 2016…

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Never Mind the Sales Process - What About the Buyer’s Journey?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 27-Oct-2015

When organisations talk about their sales process, they are usually thinking in terms of a sequence of sales activities, typically encapsulated in a series of pipeline stages, which are designed to move a prospect from first contact to a successful sale. There’s overwhelming research to prove that having a formalised sales process has helped many organisations to improve sales performance.

But if my recent observations are anything to go by, many well-established sales processes seem to have something of a blind spot when it comes to two absolutely critical elements of successful B2B selling: what is the prospect doing and thinking at each point in their buying decision process, and what can we do to recognise where they are and facilitate their onward journey?

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The Keys to Successfully Implementing “The Challenger Sale”

Posted by Bob Apollo on Fri 9-Oct-2015

I attended the UK launch event for “The Challenger Customer” yesterday (you can read my review of the book here). One of the authors, Nick Toman, gave a quick-fire introduction to the fascinating research into B2B buying behaviour that led to the breakthrough thinking encapsulated in the book.

But just as interesting was the subsequent panel discussion featuring representatives from some of the UK’s largest and most respected corporations, describing the lessons they had learned from putting the principles behind the author’s previous book “The Challenger Sale” into practice.

Needless to say, their real-world experiences were very illuminating…

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Boldly Going in B2B Sales: Less Kirk, More Spock

Posted by Bob Apollo on Sat 3-Oct-2015

The traditional profile of a successful sales person isn’t a million light-years away from the personality of Captain James Tiberius Kirk - someone who has been variously described as “cunning, courageous and confident, and with a tendency to ignore regulations when he feels the end justifies the means”.

Apparently, the inspiration for Kirk’s character came from such diverse sources as Captain Horatio Hornblower, Shakespeare and Alexander the Great. So it’s no surprise that Kirk comes across as the all-action hero, capable of rescuing apparently fatal situations through exceptional acts of derring-do.

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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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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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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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