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SELL THE DIFFERENCE: Establishing your Unique Solution Value

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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Why it's time to STOP "Adding Value"

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 8-Oct-2015

It’s probably the most commonly proposed response to price pressures and commoditisation: if we’re not prepared to cut our prices, we had better add more value for the customer. It’s a reasonable objective, but the sad truth is that most so-called “value-added” strategies simply add cost and complexity without making the offering any more desirable to the customer. In fact, they often have the opposite effect.

It might be a good idea to start by defining exactly what we mean by value. For many product-focused organisations, it’s seen primarily in terms of adding incremental functionality without adding much or anything to the price quoted to the customer. But that’s not how the customer typically views it...

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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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The second most important moment in any B2B sales campaign

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 26-May-2015

There’s a reasonable case to be made that the most important moment in the management of any successful sales opportunity is the point at which you receive a bookable, revenue recognisable order - and it’s hard to argue anything different.

There’s also a pretty good case to be made that the second most important moment in the management of any successful sales opportunity is the point at which the project can be shown to have satisfied your (hopefully thoughtfully-defined) qualification criteria.

But I want to suggest - particularly for complex B2B sales environments - that there’s another critical phase in the evolution of successful sales opportunities that can make all the difference to whether or not you ultimately succeed.

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Organisations have personas too!

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 14-Apr-2015

The idea of buyer personas seems to be sweeping the world of B2B marketing - another example of a business-to-consumer concept being embraced by the business-to-business world. Anticipating how different types of stakeholders are likely to think and behave is clearly helping to improve the quality of marketing messages and initial sales conversations.

But in complex B2B sales, we’re not just selling to individuals, but to teams of people within organisations, and I wonder if we haven’t been missing an important implication that is unique to B2B: those organisations have personas too!

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Why it's critical that you "nail your niche"

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 7-Apr-2015

How hard can it be for a new entrant to carve out a 1% share of a very large market? The answer, of course, is that it is virtually impossible. If history teaches us anything, it is that organisations that nail their niche with a simple, clear and narrowly defined market focus and then progressively expand into adjacencies do far better than their unfocused competitors.

Having a clearly defined target market or markets is the critical foundation for all other sales and marketing activities. But it’s impossible to accurately nail your niche if you restrict your thinking to the traditional narrow demographic dimensions of size, sector and location. All demographics can ever do is to describe a population. They do nothing to define how a market actually behaves.

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McKinsey help to illuminate changes in b2b buying behaviour

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 19-Feb-2015

A recent article in the McKinsey quarterly has highlighted a phenomenon that many of us have observed: B2B purchasing decisions are tracing increasingly complex journeys - and these changes are challenging the long-standing behaviours of many B2B sales organisations.

It’s becoming increasingly unhelpful (and massively unproductive) to represent sales pipelines in terms of simple traditional linear sales process that sales people are required to follow - because your customers don’t behave that way.

McKinsey’s research identified that B2B customers regularly use an average of six different ways of interacting with vendors to get the information they need - and showed that two-thirds come away frustrated by inconsistent experiences.

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Never mind the marketing message, what about the sales conversation?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Fri 5-Dec-2014

If your organisation has a complex sales process that requires a series of interactions over several months with a range of different stakeholders, there’s one thing that matters above everything else - the effectiveness of your sales conversations.

Not how much you spend on marketing, or how clever your campaigns are, or how distinctive your logo looks, or any of the other things marketers are tempted to spend time and money on. Nothing matters more than setting the scene for a series of effective sales conversations.

But here’s the problem: far too many marketers seem to believe the job is done when their message has been delivered to the target audience, or a “lead” has been generated - but at that point the real heavy lifting has only just begun…

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B2B marketing: claiming you’re better isn’t always the best strategy

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 7-Oct-2014

Technology-based businesses, with a few notable exceptions, have an unfortunate and self-limiting habit of selling on specification - and of believing that positioning their product or service as faster, cheaper or better is the key to making customers want to buy.

Whilst there are visible examples of that strategy working in rapid replacement cycle consumer markets like smartphones, there are three obvious problems with that line of thinking in high-value considered-purchase business-to-business situations.

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B2B marketing: from one-way communications to two-way conversations

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 2-Oct-2014

The trouble with far too many of today’s interactions between prospects and their potential suppliers is that they are conducted as asynchronous communications rather than synchronous conversations.

You’re probably on the receiving end of hundreds (maybe thousands) of these one-way communications every day. They include every conventional advert you’re exposed to, every mass email that is sent to you and a whole raft of other marketing devices.

And the reason you probably are moved to action by so few of these messages is that this media deluge still largely reflects a process of asynchronous broadcast communications to a largely unreceptive audience.

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