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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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Bridging the sales performance gap

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 28-Sep-2016

In the majority of sales organisations, a high percentage of sales revenue is generated by the same minority of top sales performers, quarter after quarter. According to research published by the CEB in “The Challenger Sale”, this performance gap between top sales people and the rest is amplified in complex, high value sales environments.

They found that in a transactional selling environment, the performance gap between average and star performers was 59 percent - but in complex sales environments the gap was almost 200 percent - more than three times as wide. It’s clear that even a modest narrowing of this gap could drive a dramatic improvement in revenue.

The natural response from many sales leaders who are faced with this situation is to resolve to hire smarter next time, or to invest in sales training - but neither strategy seems to have a particularly good track record. When it comes to recruitment, it seems that there simply aren’t enough natural high performers to go around...

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The Challenger Conundrum: What If Marketing Isn't Up to the Challenge?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Mon 26-Oct-2015

As regular readers will know, I’m a great fan of the principles set out in the best-selling “The Challenger Sale”. But there’s an unspoken difficulty: what if the smarter members of the sales team “get it”, but marketing is not yet ready or able to support the initiative. Do you have to admit defeat, or wait for things to change? Not necessarily...

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Why your sales funnel needs to leak from the top, not the bottom

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 13-Jan-2015

Let’s face it, every sales funnel leaks. It’s just that some seem to leak more than others - and many are leaking in all the wrong places. It’s a particular challenge in complex sales environments, where significant effort has to be expended to get any deal over the goal line.

The effort and resources that goes into opportunities that are eventually lost to a competitor, or to a decision to “do nothing” cannot usually be recovered. Now, some measure of wastage has to be expected - but a significant amount of that waste could be avoided.

In complex sales pipelines around the world, there is a substantial proportion of opportunities that are destined to be lost or abandoned. What we need to do is to recognise them early, before we’ve invested a bunch of unnecessary time and effort in them...

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First line sales managers: at the heart of B2B sales success

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 18-Nov-2014

I know many CEOs believe that hiring the best sales people is the recipe for sales success, and of course, they are partly right. But there is a critical missing piece to that puzzle - and it’s not just about giving your new hires the right sort of product training…

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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.

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The 3 critical dimensions of sales coaching

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 23-Oct-2014

Having observed a number of B2B sales organisations over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that sales training is over-rated, and sales coaching is under-appreciated. In fact, I believe that their ability to coach their sales people is the critical skill of frontline sales managers.

Sales training and sales coaching are clearly linked. We’ve all read the statistics that prove that without on-going reinforcement through day-to-day coaching, most sales training is a wasted investment - forgotten or ignored within a just few weeks.

But capable coaches go far beyond simply reinforcing their organisation’s chosen sales methodology - they develop the sales people under their care in a rich variety of different ways that enable them to realise their potential.

Sales coaching contributes to the performance of the individual and the organisation in at least 3 different levels: at the team level, at the individual level and at the opportunity level - and no sales coaching programme can be called complete until and unless it addresses all three aspects.

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Why onboarding is so critical to successful B2B sales recruiting

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 8-Apr-2014

Other than making sure you recruit the right people in the first place, how you go about on-boarding new sales people makes a huge difference to their chances of ultimate success. Yet far too many companies seem to believe that a little product training is all that is required to equip a new hire to succeed.

It’s a subject that deserves more attention, and that’s why I was very pleased to be asked to contribute to Brainshark’s excellent new eBook “Prepare Your Sales Force: Ideas for Enabling B2B Reps With More Effective Onboarding and Training”.

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Sales Enablement: the essential bridge between B2B Marketing and Sales

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 5-Feb-2014

What is the primary role of B2B marketing in today’s business environment? It’s certainly no longer just about the traditional “awareness and preference”, or how many website visitors you attract or how many as-yet unqualified enquiries you generate.

In fact, many of the traditional marketing focuses, priorities and metrics are downright dysfunctional in the modern B2B landscape. There’s no point in generating even more “leads” that the sales force can’t be motivated to follow up. And there’s even less point in being rewarded or applauded for doing so.

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B2B Complex Sales: why sales people should NEVER demo their product

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 18-Jun-2013

Have you ever been on the receiving end of a product demo that seems to go on interminably until you feel that you have lost the will to live? Ever felt that the sales person is simply lobbing feature after feature at you, desperately hoping that that at least one of them will be of interest? Ever believed that they aren’t going to let you out of the room (or off the call) until they have shown you absolutely everything?

Well, you’re not alone. That’s exactly how most prospects that have been subjected to a classic “everything bar the kitchen sink” product demo feel. As a fellow victim recently remarked, “it’s as if they are just flinging a random stream of s**t against the wall in the hope that some of it will stick”. And these deluded demo-ers aren’t just boring or irritating their victims with this approach (as if that wasn’t bad enough, anyway) - scientific studies have shown that this  information overload has a slim-to-none chance of being retained.

The argument for delaying the demo

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