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SELL THE DIFFERENCE: Establishing your Unique Solution Value

Sales conversation frameworks must be skeletons, not cages

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 20-Jul-2017

I first published this a few years back. I'm convinced it's just as relevant now - maybe even more so. What do you think?

You’ve probably observed a huge difference in conversational fluency between your most and least successful sales performers, and wished that you could bridge the gap between the best and the rest. If you haven’t, I can only conclude that you’ve either worked a miracle with your sales force, or you simply haven’t listened to enough sales conversations recently.

Let’s start with the good news: there is abundant evidence to prove that the appropriate programmes and materials can equip averagely competent B2B sales people to have dramatically and permanently better sales conversations.

But there’s also some bad news: there is no easy short cut. You can’t develop conversational fluency by expecting sales people to follow a rigid predefined script. In any complex sales environment, conversational frameworks need to be skeletons, not cages.

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The dumbest opening question a salesperson can ask

Posted by Bob Apollo on Fri 10-Jun-2016

No doubt we’ve all been the recipients of bad advice, and occasionally and unwittingly may have offered bad advice to others. But there’s one piece of advice that I still see offered by so-called sales experts (the latest only yesterday) who frankly ought to know better.

Whenever I hear the dreaded phrase it raises my hackles and if I’m any judge of the readership base for these articles it ought to have the same effect on you.

If it doesn’t, you probably want to unsubscribe now, because I imagine you’ll end up disagreeing with many of the other positions I’m going to take in the future.

Today's focus is on what I have come to believe is the dumbest opening question a sales person could possibly ask (and trust me, there are a lot of questions that could qualify for that award, so the competition is pretty tough)…

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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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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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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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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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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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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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Sales conversation plans should be skeletons, not cages

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 11-Nov-2014

You’ve probably observed a huge difference in conversational fluency between your most and least successful sales performers, and wished that you could bridge the gap between the best and the rest. If you haven’t, I can only conclude that you’ve either worked a miracle with your sales force, or you simply haven’t listened to enough sales conversations recently.

Read More