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SELL THE DIFFERENCE: Establishing your Unique Solution Value

Are your sales people hitting the accelerator too hard?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 8-Aug-2017

There’s abundant evidence to show that when sales people rush the all-important discovery stage of a complex B2B sale they store up a bunch of problems for the latter stages of the sales cycle - and often find that that the deal ends up stalling or (to continue the motoring metaphor) that they spin off the road long before reaching the finish line of a successful sale.

It's clear that the old adage “more haste, less speed” applies just as strongly to selling as it does to many other aspects of our lives. When we look at what experienced, effective sales people do differently to their less productive peers, we see that they tend to move more deliberately and slowly during the early stages of the sale, and invest more time in deeply understanding the dynamics of the deal.

This has been borne out by a series of analytic assessments of sales performance: all other things being equal, a deliberate and thoughtful approach to discovery allows effective sales people to identify and eliminate poorly qualified opportunities early in the process, and to create the foundation for swifter progress through the remaining stages of well-qualified deals.

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4 things you need to know about B2B buying decisions

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 2-Aug-2017

If you think it’s hard to sell, you might want to spare a thought for your potential customers: depending on which research you look at, the majority (around 2-in-3) of their buying decision processes end with them deciding to do nothing at all, and sticking with the status quo.

There is, of course, a connection between our challenges as sales people and our prospective customers’ challenges in reaching a consensus about whether they really need to change and, if so, what they need to change to and which solution represents their best available option.

If you’re determined to do a better job of assessing and influencing your prospect’s intentions, here are 4 key things you need to know about how buying decisions are actually made…

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Who is our Primary Project Sponsor?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 27-Jul-2017

It’s in the nature of complex B2B sales that the buying decision process is likely to be complicated, with multiple stakeholders, diverse and often-competing agendas and often-hidden influencers and gatekeepers.

So it’s no surprise that most sales methodologies encourage us to find a coach, champion, change agent or (in a registered term popularised by the clever folks behind the “Challenger Sale”) Mobiliser®.

It’s a recognition that if we are to win, we need to work through others - that we need to find someone to act as our advocate internally. But being a good advocate for our solution often isn’t enough…

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Targeting Change Agents

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 18-Apr-2017

One of the biggest challenges for any sales person when qualifying a new potential sales opportunity is judging whether the deal is real - and whether the initial contact is someone who has the ability to make things happen.

Sometimes it’s obvious that the person reaching out to you is on an information gathering exercise for someone else, or simply pursuing an enquiry based on nothing more than personal curiosity.

But often, the person comes across as credible. They may even claim to be the decision maker. How can we make a more informed judgement about whether they are really capable of driving the change agenda?

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The best sales presentations are designed from the inside out

Posted by Bob Apollo on Fri 13-Jan-2017

If you, like me, have spent the majority of your working life in the technology sector, you’ve probably sat through more than your fair share of awful, formulaic, and downright boring sales presentations.

You’re likely to have been exposed to more slides packed with the same customer logos, more maps jammed with pins showing office locations and more self-serving corporate positioning statements than any human being should have to endure in a lifetime.

You've probably been subjected to more irrelevant technical detail than any human being should have to endure. And you’ve almost certainly seen and heard the same trite phrases trotted out in pitch after pitch, to the point where they all blur together and you can’t tell them apart: “best in class”, “state of the art”, “industry-leading”… and the list goes on.

But it doesn’t have to be this way…

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Lessons from Chess: why sales people need to think ahead

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 15-Sep-2016

When we observe a chess grand master in action (or an expert in any other similar strategy-based game), it quickly becomes apparent that they are not merely living in the moment but thinking several moves ahead. Pursuing the most obvious immediate move could store trouble up for the future.

The same, of course, applies to selling. The best sales people pursue long-term strategies - and they also give themselves options that allow them to anticipate and adapt to their prospect’s future behaviour.

Perhaps the best example of this is how top sales people adapt their strategies to their entry path into the prospect. There are really two fundamental paths: top-down and bottom-up, and the strategies that need to be adopted vary significantly between the two.

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Aligning our sales process with our prospect’s buying journeys

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 1-Sep-2016

In complex sales environments, the role of the successful salesperson isn’t just about prospecting, qualifying and closing. In fact, the most effective sales people are the ones who manage to successfully facilitate complex buying decision processes that involve multiple stakeholders.

And yet the sales pipeline stages in the majority of CRM implementations are still defined with reference to the completion of a linear sequence of sales activities such as “qualifying”, “demonstrating” and “proposing” that usually bear little relationship to the true state of the prospect’s often-complex buying journey, or the likelihood they will either do anything or choose your solution.

It’s no wonder that so many sales pipeline valuations are wildly optimistic, or that sales forecasts often remain stubbornly inaccurate, with “current quarter commit” deals that turn out to be nothing of the sort. If you recognise, or even suspect that you have a problem in these areas, it’s time to take action.

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The Challenge with Challenger Selling

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 29-Mar-2016

“The Challenger Sale” by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson has been one of the most talked-about sales books of the past decade - and has been described by no less an authority than SPIN-Selling author Neil Rackham as “the most important advance in selling for many years”.

Based on an impressive body of research, the book sets out an attractive and seductive formula for achieving sales success - and it’s attracted the attention of a significant number of CEOs who are looking for a way to differentiate their organisation from the competition and accelerate revenue growth.

But as many have discovered, adopting Challenger is neither a miracle cure nor a sure-fire recipe for success. In a number of instances, Challenger Selling has transformed sales performance - but in others, it has failed to achieve the hoped-for results. How can these differences be explained?

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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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