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SELL THE DIFFERENCE: Establishing your Unique Solution Value

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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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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What we’ve got here is failure to differentiate…

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 13-Sep-2016

Let’s face it, establishing a distinctive, differentiated position for our products and services is hard and getting harder in an increasingly crowded, over-communicated-to market. It’s probably accurate to say that it’s never been harder to stand out from the crowd.

Geoffrey Moore recognised the problem in “Crossing the Chasm” more than 20 years ago - a book that has been recognised as one of the few timeless classic texts on B2B marketing. Moore offered a simple framework for crafting a unique and relevant value proposition targeted at a well-defined audience.

But in today’s hyper-competitive world, I’ve found that it’s worth expanding Moore’s original framework just a bit to ensure that we’re capturing the raw insights we need to craft compelling communications and conversations…

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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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ADOPTED: a far better way to qualify complex sales opportunities

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 17-Aug-2016

One of the fundamental capabilities that distinguish top sales people - and top sales organisations - from the rest is their ability to accurately qualify sales opportunities from a relatively early stage in the sales process.

Effective qualification is important in any sales environment, but it’s absolutely critical in high-value complex sales situations with multiple stakeholders, where man-months of precious resource can easily be wasted pursuing opportunities that were never likely to buy anything or if they did, were never likely to buy from us.

Traditional approaches to sales qualification - like the over-simple BANT (Budget, Authority, Need and Timeframe) are utterly inadequate to reflect the dynamics of today’s complex sales opportunities. Fortunately, there are far better ways of dealing with the issue…

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Weeding out weak opportunities (and improving sales forecast accuracy)

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 10-Aug-2016

How can B2B sales people (and the sales organisations they work for) identify and engage the prospects that are most likely to buy from them?

In even the most successful B2B sales organisations there is always a significant fall-off between the number of qualified sales opportunities that enter the top of the sales funnel and the number that eventually emerge as customers.

In less effective sales organisations this fall-off from top to bottom of funnel is significantly higher - and often happens later in the sales cycle, compounded by the number of “zombie deals” that have somehow managed to remain in the sales pipeline despite showing no recent signs of life.

If we’re destined to lose, then we had better lose early - before we have invested significant resources in pursuing a set of opportunities that are never likely to buy from us. But that takes discipline, and a determination to ruthlessly weed out weak opportunities...

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How will Brexit affect sales strategies and tactics in the UK?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Sun 3-Jul-2016

It doesn’t matter which way any of us voted as individuals: the nation has spoken, and impact of the decision to Brexit will inevitably affect anyone who sells for a living in the UK - and any global organisation with a sales presence in the UK.

We’re entering uncertain times, and I suspect that there is going to be a huge difference between sales people and organisation that adapt their sales strategies and tactics to the new realities and the remainder (no pun intended) who carry on as before in the hope that buyer behaviours won’t have changed very much…

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Why sales leaders need to focus on outcomes, not activities

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 21-Jun-2016

I’ve been seeing a lot of attention paid recently to activity-based sales management. Put simply, it’s the principle that sales managers need to give their sales people targets for measurable activity levels such as the number of calls made, meetings arranged or demos given.

The theory is that the more activity sales people undertake, the more likely they are to be successful, and there may be indeed be some correlation between activity and results in high volume transactional sales environments. But the relationship is nowhere near as clear in complex B2B sales environments, and an obsessive focus on activity levels can end up driving entirely the wrong behaviour…

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Understanding the critical difference between "Need To" and "Must Do"

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 6-Apr-2016

In pretty much every conversation I've been having recently with CEOs and sales leaders the subject turns - sooner or later - to a growing competitive threat. And despite the fact that they are in widely different businesses, the competitor is always exactly the same.

How can this be? Surely you’d expect each different market to be characterised by a different set of competitive vendors, and that, of course is true. But I’m not referring to the other vendors that happen to compete in the same space as you.

Have you guessed who this mystery competitor is yet?

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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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