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SELL THE DIFFERENCE: Establishing your Unique Solution Value

B2B Sales: Why you must systematically target these 3 avoidable errors

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 18-Mar-2015

Sales people and sales leaders have been regularly urged over the years to adopt “best practices” as a way of improving sales performance. I raise my hand and acknowledge that I have been one of the many lobbyists for this approach. But lately I’ve been wondering if maybe I’ve been looking through the wrong end of the telescope.

I’ll acknowledge a debt of gratitude to the author Atul Gawande and his book “the Checklist Manifesto” for causing me to adopt a fresh perspective. Because as I look around at the patchy success of many initiatives that have sought to drive the adoption of best practices, I’ve come to believe that we would be way more effective if we started by simply eliminating the obvious avoidable errors…

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Think your salespeople have a closing problem? Think again…

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 10-Feb-2015

I’ve lost count of the number of clients who call me in because they think their sales people have a problem closing new business opportunities, and whilst there often appears to be an issue in that area, in my experience the real problem typically starts much earlier.

You see, when I really dig into the client’s situation, I invariably discover that one of the primary reasons that opportunities aren’t closing is that the opportunities weren’t “opened” the right way in the first place - and no amount of closing skill can make up for that.

No amount of slick language, alternative closes, the introduction of a puppy dog, special pleading or any of the other traditional sales closing techniques can compensate if the opportunity is currently fundamentally un-closable.

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What’s the one thing VCs love even more than growth?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 27-Jan-2015

Of course, every VC wants to see their portfolio companies grow. But as Scott Maxwell of OpenView Venture Partners points out in a persuasive recent blog (link below), companies that deliver predictable revenue are regarded as even more valuable.

Now, if you’re still at the pre-revenue stage, your revenue projections have no way of being validated - although they will have hopefully been based on something more substantial than what a prominent investor once colourfully described to me as “rectal research” ;-)

But as soon as your organisation has reached that all important post-startup growth stage and before you start looking for that next wave of expansion capital, you had better start managing by the numbers…

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Why your sales funnel needs to leak from the top, not the bottom

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 13-Jan-2015

Let’s face it, every sales funnel leaks. It’s just that some seem to leak more than others - and many are leaking in all the wrong places. It’s a particular challenge in complex sales environments, where significant effort has to be expended to get any deal over the goal line.

The effort and resources that goes into opportunities that are eventually lost to a competitor, or to a decision to “do nothing” cannot usually be recovered. Now, some measure of wastage has to be expected - but a significant amount of that waste could be avoided.

In complex sales pipelines around the world, there is a substantial proportion of opportunities that are destined to be lost or abandoned. What we need to do is to recognise them early, before we’ve invested a bunch of unnecessary time and effort in them...

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Don’t waste your time on deals that have no compelling reason to act

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 9-Dec-2014

It’s often quoted, but worth repeating: the biggest single reason why B2B sales people lose seemingly well-qualified opportunities is because the prospect concluded they didn’t actually have to do anything - and so they decided to do nothing.

It’s hard for your sales people to blame the “competition” for being more keenly priced or having better features when the prospect decides that they are actually more comfortable sticking with the status quo - in fact your sales people can only blame themselves.

It’s a hard thing to acknowledge, but whenever a sales person loses to “no decision”, they either failed to qualify the opportunity accurately, or failed to execute a good enough sales strategy. There are no other excuses…

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Sales and Marketing alignment - necessary but not sufficient

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 30-Oct-2014

Most CEOs would like to see their sales and marketing teams working more effectively together. Many have “improving sales and marketing alignment” on their must-do list. But they are likely to be disappointed by the results - unless they focus on the real problem…

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The 3 critical dimensions of sales coaching

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 23-Oct-2014

Having observed a number of B2B sales organisations over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that sales training is over-rated, and sales coaching is under-appreciated. In fact, I believe that their ability to coach their sales people is the critical skill of frontline sales managers.

Sales training and sales coaching are clearly linked. We’ve all read the statistics that prove that without on-going reinforcement through day-to-day coaching, most sales training is a wasted investment - forgotten or ignored within a just few weeks.

But capable coaches go far beyond simply reinforcing their organisation’s chosen sales methodology - they develop the sales people under their care in a rich variety of different ways that enable them to realise their potential.

Sales coaching contributes to the performance of the individual and the organisation in at least 3 different levels: at the team level, at the individual level and at the opportunity level - and no sales coaching programme can be called complete until and unless it addresses all three aspects.

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B2B sales: How to close 42% more business

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 15-Oct-2014

According to the smart folks at Sales Benchmark Index (SBI), companies that have taken the time to adopt and implement a consistent and effective sales process close on average 42% more business than organisations that don't.

It’s the sort of percentage that makes the difference between success or failure, between keeping your job or losing it, and between beating your quota or being beaten by it.

But having a process doesn’t mean turning sales people into automatons - far from it. In fact, there’s abundant evidence that having a sound process actually frees up sales people to be creative.

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The B2B buying decision process: challenging the 57% myth

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 30-Sep-2014

It’s a statistic that’s been widely quoted and even more widely misunderstood - the idea that the typical modern B2B buying decision process is “57% complete” before the customer even talks to the supplier.

Or you may have seen it quoted as “65%” or “two thirds”. It doesn’t matter, because all the figures are precisely wrong.

I think the original statistic came from a CEB* study but it has been naively interpreted and driven many thoughtless conclusions. You see, like many statistics, it’s simply a headline-grabbing average that hides a wide variation in actual behaviour.

Subsequent studies by other organisations - including one by IDC - have revealed subtleties that any B2B sales and marketing organisation need to take into consideration before they decide to make far-reaching changes to their go-to-market strategy…

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B2B Sales: You need to focus on the workarounds that aren’t working

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 3-Sep-2014

In most “solution selling” methodologies, B2B sales people are encouraged to uncover their prospect’s issues, rather than leading with their products.

But there’s a potential problem: any organisation, any stakeholder, always has many more issues that they would like to address than they could possibly have the have money, time, or inclination to deal with.

That’s why so many issues stimulate so many apparently positive sales conversations that end up going absolutely nowhere. The prospect is interested enough to talk, but not motivated enough to act...

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