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SELL THE DIFFERENCE: Establishing your Unique Solution Value

Critical to B2B sales success - stakeholder assessments

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 29-Nov-2017

One of the most common reasons why apparently promising B2B sales opportunities get derailed - often at a late stage in our sales cycle - is that we have failed to identify all the key stakeholders or to understand how to get them all to support our approach.

There’s a similar explanation for why many accounts fail to realise their potential - we end up becoming over reliant on a few regular contacts and fail to identify or engage with the other stakeholders that could enable us to maximise our opportunities.

It’s a sad fact that many deals that are currently being forecasted to close before the end of 2017 will fade away or be lost for the same reason. So, this is probably a timely opportunity to remind ourselves of the critical importance of identifying, understanding and engaging all the stakeholders that our sales success must ultimately depend on…

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Why having a budget isn’t always a positive qualifier …

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 28-Nov-2017

John Holland of CustomerCentric Selling® makes an interesting point in a blog article. Many sales people who have been brought up on an over-literal interpretation of BANT may believe that the absence of a budget for a project should be a reason to disqualify an opportunity.

This may be valid in simple transactional sales, but in complex high-value discretionary B2B purchases our interpretation of the apparent presence or absence of a budget needs to be much more nuanced. Firstly, it’s important to distinguish between a project-specific formal budget and a source of funds that can be reallocated from other priorities.

As John points out, if there is no clear source of funding, it’s almost certainly a sign that we are operating at too low a level and that our current contact does not have the authority or ability to act as a power sponsor. If a project is important enough, a power sponsor will always be able to find the money (by shifting it from another pot).

Counter-intuitively, if a project-specific project budget does already exist, it may be a sign (and a warning) that another vendor is already making the running, and that they may have set the prospect’s expectations not just in terms of cost, but also functionality.

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Thinking about what could go wrong…

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 8-Nov-2017

Let’s face it, many (maybe most) “average” sales people seem to be incorrigible optimists. When assessing their chances of winning an opportunity they tend to err on the positive and anticipate the good things that they hope will happen.

But I’ve observed that many top sales performers behave quite differently. Whilst confident in their abilities, they are much more inclined to anticipate what might go wrong in any sales situation, and to take proactive steps to mitigate the risk.

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that it’s actually far easier and more productive to systematically identify and eliminate the risk factors in selling than it is to strive for “sales perfection” (whatever that Nirvana-like state might involve) …

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Book review: Digital Sales Transformation

Posted by Bob Apollo on Fri 3-Nov-2017

It’s probably no exaggeration to suggest that B2B selling is facing a crisis of confidence. I hear it all the time from new clients. Sales organisations are finding that it is harder than ever to get that all important first fully engaged customer conversation started – and even when they do, apparently promising opportunities often end up stalling or falling completely off the radar.

And it’s not as if their competition is doing any better: more often than not, the customer appears to conclude that the case for change is insufficiently strong – and the risks of change so high – that their safest option is to do nothing and stick with the status quo.

There’s no shortage of self-help books offering frustrated sales people a potential way forward. But Donal Daly’s recently published “Digital Sales Transformation in a Customer First World” has struck me as providing a particularly effective and unusually systematic roadmap for what to do about the situation…

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The Enduring Relevance of "Crossing the Chasm"

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 26-Oct-2017

With over a million copies sold, Geoffrey Moore’s “Crossing the Chasm” guide to marketing and selling disruptive products to mainstream customers is still one of the must-read books for B2B-focused sales and marketing leaders.

One of Inc. magazine’s Top 10 Marketing Books of All Time, its core principles are still enduringly relevant, more than 20 years after its first publication. Now in its third edition, it has of course been regularly revised to reflect the realities of modern high-tech marketing.

For me, the core of the book has always been its simple but effective framework for establishing a compelling and clearly differentiated value proposition, and I’d like to share some of the lessons I’ve learned in reinterpreting Moore’s format for a contemporary audience…

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Opportunity qualification is a continuous process

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 17-Oct-2017

If you’re involved in complex, lengthy and high-value B2B sales environments, you can’t afford to regard opportunity qualification as a one-off exercise. You need to think of it as an ongoing process, in which you continually accumulate new learning as well as regularly revalidating any previous assumptions.

The level of resource that you have to invest in winning any significant sales opportunity requires that you make thoughtful decisions about which deals are worth pursuing and which ones should be firmly qualified out.

Top sales performers – in my experience, at least – have too much respect for their own time to waste it pursuing opportunities they have little chance of winning. They tend to be ruthless in their initial qualification, and they are typically very aware of changes in circumstances that could turn a previously attractive opportunity into something that is no longer a valuable use of resources.

So how can we equip every sales person to embrace the same rigorous approach?

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Sell the Difference!

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 3-Oct-2017

Today’s B2B buyers are wrestling with potentially risky decisions and often-confusing options. We shouldn’t be surprised if they decide to stick with the status quo or choose the cheapest of a set of apparently similar solutions.

I hear a growing number of B2B sales leaders asking: how can we do a better job of identifying and engaging the customers that are most likely to buy, standing out from all their other options, and persuading the prospect to commit to our solution?

Here’s what today’s most effective sales organisations have learned: claiming that you have a better solution isn’t enough - first, you have to show how and why you are different

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Contrast drives change

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 6-Sep-2017

When you crunch the numbers, the most common outcome of even apparently well-qualified complex sales opportunities is a loss - not to an alternative solution, but to the status quo.

“Do nothing” is today’s most powerful competitor. It’s become the most common outcome because organisations often struggle to build a consensus for change and because the easiest and safest option appears to be to carry on as before.

But the real reason is often because nobody - internal champions and sales people alike - managed to create enough contrast between where the customer is today and where they need to be in the future.

It’s blindingly obvious, when we think about it - contrast drives change

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Drilling into the need beyond the need

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 22-Aug-2017

Theodore Levitt was the first to introduce us to the idea that “people don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole” - and this observation has surely now become one of today’s most relevant and widely quoted sales aphorisms.

It reminds us that our primary purpose, if we are to achieve lasting success in complex B2B sales, is not to sell our products or services but to reliably solve our customer’s problems and satisfy their needs.

But what if the need isn’t that obvious - or if the customer’s perception of their current need is that it isn’t critical enough to justify the case for change?

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Stop confusing “objections” with concerns

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 16-Aug-2017

Almost every traditional book on sales methodologies has a section on overcoming objections. The techniques proposed often seem to be manipulative and self-serving. They often come across like an attempt to outwit the customer.

The problem lies in our choice of words. When someone “objects” to something, they are expressing disagreement, disapproval, refusal or opposition. The language is inherently confrontational. We’re applying the wrong mental model when we label our customers’ legitimate questions as objections - and we’re making it harder to deal with them.

Because, most of the time, our customer’s “objection” isn’t actually a statement of disagreement, disapproval, refusal or opposition - it’s simply an expression of an unresolved concern…

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