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SELL THE DIFFERENCE: Establishing your Unique Solution Value

Is Your Messaging Truly Compelling?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 22-Mar-2016

We all know the problem, because we all suffer from it as consumers: today’s buyers are so bombarded by apparently similar messages that they often find it hard to distinguish between competing solutions and vendors.

After all, the vendors can’t all be better, faster or cheaper, so all claims to that effect will at best be diluted or most likely completely disregarded by their intended audience as yet another example of marketing puffery.

And we’ve all probably found ourselves utterly unmoved by a piece of so-called “thought leadership” that turns out to be no more than a crudely disguised and poorly executed product pitch, or is no more than the uncritical rehashing of statistics that have already been shared dozens of times...

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Inaccurate forecasting = inconsistent qualification

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 17-Mar-2016

Accurate sales forecasting is a particular challenge in high-value complex sales environments with lengthy sales cycles. Given that we are trying to anticipate the collective decision of a group of decision makers, it’s safe to conclude that perfection is an impossible goal.

But it’s also clear that every complex sales organisation has significant room for improvement when it comes to forecast accuracy. Studies by CSO Insights and others have concluded that average forecast accuracy on a deal-by-deal basis has remained stubbornly stuck for years at below 50%.

This tends not to be an issue in high-volume, low-value transactional environments, where the inability to accurately predict the outcome of an individual deal gets washed away by the law of averages. But if you’re only working on a limited number of high-value opportunities, a few misjudgements can make the difference between having an excellent quarter or missing by a mile

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The C-Suite should be your most receptive audience

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 10-Mar-2016

Most traditional sales methodologies have some element of “selling to power”, and that’s often associated with the C-Suite. But these C-Level executives, according to the experiences of many sales people, are notoriously hard to reach (and, by the way, unlikely to ever talk to you again if you do manage to get through and then treat them to the joys of your boring old product pitch).

Despite the growth of collective and consensus-driven decision-making, these C-Level executives still have the power to make or break a deal, and they can at least be expected to have the final say. So it’s as important as it ever has been to attempt to engage them.

And, according to a recent study (B2B Nation - The Content Pinch Point) conducted by Loudhouse Research/Octopus Group, they could turn out to be a more receptive group than you might think…

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Do you *really* understand your prospect’s pain?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 3-Mar-2016

For many of your potential prospects, most of the time, sticking with the status quo is usually the comfortable choice. It’s no wonder that so many complex sales cycles end up with the customer deciding to do nothing rather than embark on a potentially costly and risky change.

That’s why - in many complex sales environments - your biggest competitor is not another vendor, but the very real risk that your prospects will decide to “do nothing” and stick with what they’ve got.

There’s one overwhelming reason why these apparently promising sales opportunities came to nothing: the prospect’s current situation was simply not painful enough to force them into action.

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Complex Selling Essentials: Focus, Systems and Talent

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 23-Feb-2016

Complex B2B sales are usually characterised by lengthy, high-value buying decisions that involve multiple stakeholders and frequently end in a decision to do nothing and stick with the status quo. But that doesn’t mean they have to be complicated - far from it.

Over-complicated responses to managing the complex sales process have a woeful success rate. Sales people simply don’t see the value in having to enter reams of information into CRM systems that they doubt management will ever pay proper attention to - or conform to processes that they see as doing nothing to increase their chances of winning. And they are right to rebel.

I believe that the evidence is clear: mastering three deceptively simple principles turns out to be critical to winning the complex sale…

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Mastering the Close Date Conundrum

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 17-Feb-2016

Predicting close dates is one of the most challenging aspects of accurate forecasting in complex sales environments. It’s particularly difficult in new business situations where the vendor has no past history of successfully selling to the prospect. Under these circumstances, it can be hard for the sales person to make a well-informed initial judgement as to when the opportunity is likely to close.

It’s easy to see why these initial estimates often prove to be inaccurate. The challenge is compounded by the fact that most CRM systems will not allow you to create a new opportunity without entering a close date. So it’s no surprise that this initial prediction is no more than a guesstimate, and often requires at least one adjustment.

But that first adjustment is often just the start of a series of slippages, to the point where it’s hard to have any confidence that even the very latest projected close date will actually be achieved…

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If you’re late to the B2B party, you need to disrupt it!

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 9-Feb-2016

You’ve been invited to a friend’s long-anticipated party. But something delays you along the way, and you arrive late - long after the other guests. What’s your natural inclination? Unless you’re a raving exhibitionist, your inclination is probably to not make too much of a fuss, join quietly, merge into the crowd and play it low key for a while.

That may be a good guiding principle for (most of) our personal lives, but it’s an awful approach if you’re a salesperson arriving late to a prospect’s buying decision process that has already been underway for some time. If you’re late, you need to stand out from the crowd and do your best to disrupt the process. Here’s why…

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Complex Sales: How Solution Category affects Organisational Structure

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 4-Feb-2016

One of the critical questions that every expansion-phase B2B focused company needs to consider is “what’s the most appropriate Sales and Business Development organisation structure for our product or service offering”?

There is no single perfect answer to this - but the choices you make have a huge impact on your ability to create and close the maximum number of qualified opportunities, as quickly as possible.

As well as taking into account the packaging and price points of your product or service, it is important to pay close attention to the expectations and needs of your buyers.

You obviously need to identify the problems that your solution solves, focus on the types of organisations are most likely to suffer from these issues and distinguish which roles are most likely to lead the search for a solution. But there's more...

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Complex sales challenges: balancing capability and reputation

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 28-Jan-2016

What happens if you’re competing against a much less advanced solution from a company with a much better established reputation? It’s a situation that many expansion-stage SaaS businesses find themselves in. And unlike their longer-established competitors, every sale involves winning a new customer rather than upselling into the installed base.

Having the “best solution” is no guarantee of sales success, and every potential customer is weighing up the potential for transforming their business against the risk of the unknown. It’s a tough brief, and I’ve got enormous respect for the sales people who manage to master it. Here’s what I’ve learned from observing them in action…

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The 2 critical factors behind B2B sales forecast confidence

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 26-Jan-2016

Regular readers will recall that I am no great fan of the default approach taken by so many CRM vendors, in which individual opportunity forecast probabilities are based on applying the same percentage to every opportunity that has reached a given stage in the sales process.

Many CRM users simply accept the default “out of the box” percentages without questioning them, or validating them against actual outcomes, or are confused about whether the % is measuring progress through the process or the probability of winning.

It’s no wonder that sales forecasts are often so wildly inaccurate. But there is a better way of thinking about this…

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