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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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Learn from the Best, Move the Middle, Recycle the Rest (and Hire Smarter)

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 4-Nov-2015

According to Sales Benchmark Index, across the industry as a whole, 83% of sales revenues are generated by only 13% of the sales population. And even if the asymmetry within your own sales organisation is less pronounced, it’s a reasonably safe assumption that there is some sort of significant imbalance between the best and the rest. 

Now, some element of this can be explained by the time taken to ramp up new hires. But the larger part of the explanation is likely to come from a combination of hiring people who were never likely to make the grade in the first place, an inability to fully realise the potential of your otherwise-competent sales hires, and a failure to learn all you could from the winning habits of your top sales performers.

In short, if sales organisations are to bridge this sales performance gap, they need learn from the best, move the middle, accelerate the inevitable - and hire smarter.

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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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B2B Sales: You need to focus on the workarounds that aren’t working

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 3-Sep-2014

In most “solution selling” methodologies, B2B sales people are encouraged to uncover their prospect’s issues, rather than leading with their products.

But there’s a potential problem: any organisation, any stakeholder, always has many more issues that they would like to address than they could possibly have the have money, time, or inclination to deal with.

That’s why so many issues stimulate so many apparently positive sales conversations that end up going absolutely nowhere. The prospect is interested enough to talk, but not motivated enough to act...

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Forget sales methodology wars - just pick the bits that work for you

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 15-May-2014

The authors of sales methodologies have a vested interest in positioning their approach as being distinctively different from the competition - after all, they have books to sell and (often eye-wateringly) expensive courses to fill.

Sometimes that positioning rises to ludicrous levels - as when one leading provider persuaded the Harvard Business Review to publish an article proclaiming “the End of Solution Selling”. Many of the arguments revolve around petty semantic definitions.

But, as someone wiser than me probably once said, “semantics don’t get you sold”. The truth of the matter is that many of these methodologies are more similar than they would have you believe. Is it really, as some cynics might have you believe, just another case of “same old s**t, different colour”?

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Neil Rackham really wanted us all to be SPIV sales people

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 10-Apr-2014

One of a series of articles celebrating the continuing relevance of SPIN Selling

I had the chance to listen to Neil Rackham, creator of the best-selling SPIN Selling, at the Portsmouth Business School a couple of weeks ago. He proved an extremely engaging speaker - and he shared a closely-guarded secret: SPIN Selling should really have been SPIV selling.

For those of you unfamiliar with SPIN Selling, the four-letter acronym stands for Situational, Problem, Implication and Need-Payoff questions. It resulted from years of research into the winning questioning habits of top-performing sales people.

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Sales leadership, sales management and sales coaching

Posted by Bob Apollo on Sat 10-Aug-2013

I was delighted to be asked by the folks at InsightSquared to contribute to their series of "expert interviews" on key topics in sales and marketing analytics. Gareth Goh of InsightSquared fired off the questions, and I did my best to answer them. I hope you find some of the ideas useful in helping to improve sales performance within your own organisation. Here goes:

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Why does sales training have such a poor ROI?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 23-Oct-2012

The statistics certainly make for uncomfortable reading. According to a substantial body of published research - some of it by sales training companies themselves - only a tiny fraction (less than 15% seems to be the consensus figure) of the content delivered in traditional sales training programmes has any practical impact on the sales person’s subsequent behaviour.

Always be ClosingThe audience might have enjoyed a nice few hours or days out, but the exercise has had no lasting impact. That’s an ROI of zero - but that’s not all: you’ve also got to factor in the negative opportunity cost of what else they could have been doing that would have been more productive.

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Sales Leaders: Are you really training your sales people to succeed?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 7-Feb-2012

CSO Insights have just released their eagerly-awaited annual review of the state of sales performance - reflecting detailed inputs from over 1,500 sales organisations from around the world. Their latest report suggests that B2B sales leaders could and should do more to equip their sales people to succeed through more relevant and effective training.

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B2B Sales: The Problem with Solution Selling

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 18-Oct-2011

I’ve lost count of the number of organisations who, facing increased competition in their core markets, have ambitions to transform themselves from a product-driven to a solution-led sales approach. They invest in putting their salespeople through “solution selling” training. And then, all too often, they end up disappointed with the results. Here’s why…

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