MASTERING VALUE SELLING: the Inflexion-Point blog

The Case for Focusing on Critical Problems

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 28-Mar-2017

Our prospective customers will always have many more potential issues than they can possibly afford to address in the short term. There will always be a bunch of problems that they would like to - or feel they need to - solve.

But one of the reasons why losing to “do nothing” (rather than to a competitor) is now the most common outcome of even apparently well-qualified sales opportunities is that if organisations don’t feel they have to take action right now to deal with an issue, they will probably postpone or defer the purchase.

This is particularly galling for sales people (and their colleagues) who have often invested months of effort and received a string of positive signals from the prospective customer. They may have even been selected. They may have agreed terms.

But despite their herculean efforts, despite the good intentions of their champions within the customer, they still often end up failing to close the deal and win the sale - and it’s scant compensation to think that at least you haven’t lost to a competitor…

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Striving for Mutually Meaningful Value

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 22-Mar-2017

There’s a gratifying amount of attention being paid nowadays to the idea that sales people need to focus on creating genuine customer value. It’s a concept that sits at the very centre of our own Value Selling System®.

And yet I still sense that there’s a lot of ambiguity about what different people mean when they talk about focusing on value. It might be best to start by offering a practical working definition of what we mean (or ought to mean) when we talk about “value” from a sales perspective…

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It’s time to reverse engineer our concept of “Thought Leadership”

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 15-Mar-2017

Let’s face it, most so-called “thought leadership” is actually nothing of the sort. Much of it turns out to be a crude rehashing of already widely quoted statistics and crudely disguised product promotion.

All-too-often, it does little or nothing to actually stimulate the reader to think differently or to reconsider their existing beliefs.

Nor - typically - does it cause the reader to want to learn more, or to be prepared to talk to someone who can continue their education.

There are, of course, some notable exceptions. But because every marketing department is seemingly being chartered to throw more and more resources at creating “thought leadership”, its quality and impact - its capacity to shock and surprise - is frequently compromised.

And in complex B2B sales the above problems are merely scratching the surface - because I believe that even if the marketing message is expertly crafted, there’s still a critical missing ingredient…

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In complex B2B sales, you face 3 types of competition

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 23-Feb-2017

Most B2B sales people have a narrow sense of competition. They usually restrict their thinking to other vendors in the same market sector. But this absurdly narrow definition of whom or what they are really competing against is causing them to ignore some of the most significant forces that often stand in the way of a sale.

In complex B2B sales environments, and particularly in those where the purchase is discretionary (where the customer could and often does ultimately decide to simply stick with the status quo) the competitive landscape is much more complicated.

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Size isn’t everything: why more revenue often flows from smaller pipelines

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 14-Feb-2017

One of the abiding urban myths that misinforms sales pipeline management is the idea that sales people need at least 3* pipeline coverage in order to achieve their quota. Where this “golden number” came from, nobody seems to know, but it’s a fair bet that it dates back beyond the Neolithic.

Another widespread urban myth is the idea that whenever you have a bigger sales pipeline, you end up selling more. It’s the sort of misconception that leads marketing teams to drive to create an ever-larger number of MQLs without any regard for how many of them ever actually result in any revenue.

The simple fact is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of what the optimum coverage ratio for any specific sales pipeline is…

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Why every sales opportunity needs a regular risk assessment

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 1-Feb-2017

If you were working in the health or social services, or in the nuclear, aerospace, oil, rail and military industries, you would be well aware of the need to perform risk assessments on a regular basis wherever there was a serious threat of a hazardous situation.

In fact, if you happened to be in a management or executive position in those environments, you might well have a legal responsibility to ensure that the necessary risk assessments were performed to the appropriate professional standard.

Some may regard these risk assessments as burdensome, and a few might hanker after a simpler, less bureaucratic climate. But there’s no doubt that risk assessments have saved many lives, and will continue to do so. Which might lead us to consider whether risk assessments could save sales deals, as well…

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Eliminating Valueless Sales Activity

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 25-Jan-2017

Selling has the potential to be an incredibly wasteful exercise. The vast majority of cold calls fail to establish any connection with a potential buyer. The vast majority of “leads” fail to convert into opportunities. And - except in truly exceptional sales organisations - the majority of qualified opportunities fail to convert into sales.

This level of waste in what ought to be a well-defined process would not be tolerated in any other environment. No manufacturing organisation could afford to build anything like this level of faulty products. No distribution company could afford to lose this level of packages. And no airline could survive so many faulty landings.

Now, it’s fair for you to observe that the nature of selling (and the often unpredictable nature of the B2B buying process) means that perfect outcomes cannot be guaranteed. But by any rational analysis most of us have probably come to accept far more imperfection in the sales process than I believe we ought or need to…

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The best sales presentations are designed from the inside out

Posted by Bob Apollo on Fri 13-Jan-2017

If you, like me, have spent the majority of your working life in the technology sector, you’ve probably sat through more than your fair share of awful, formulaic, and downright boring sales presentations.

You’re likely to have been exposed to more slides packed with the same customer logos, more maps jammed with pins showing office locations and more self-serving corporate positioning statements than any human being should have to endure in a lifetime.

You've probably been subjected to more irrelevant technical detail than any human being should have to endure. And you’ve almost certainly seen and heard the same trite phrases trotted out in pitch after pitch, to the point where they all blur together and you can’t tell them apart: “best in class”, “state of the art”, “industry-leading”… and the list goes on.

But it doesn’t have to be this way…

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What is your organisation going to do differently in 2017?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 22-Dec-2016

We’re rapidly approaching the end of the year, and barring the occasional miracle, it’s probably already pretty clear how your organisation’s sales year is going to end up. If you’re like most sales teams, it will probably have been a blend of high spots and low spots.

A subset of your sales people (often the same ones as last year) will have achieved their sales targets well before the end of the year. Another group will be there or thereabouts, and a further group will have struggled.

Some of your new hires will have proved their potential early, and the success of others is still to be proven. It’s a familiar picture that will be repeated across many - perhaps the majority - of sales organisations.

So here’s the critical year-end question: what have you learned from these experiences, and what is your sales organisation going to do differently in 2017 to close the gap between your best sales people and the rest?

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Where did that close date come from? (and where is it going to?)

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 6-Dec-2016

One of the biggest challenges to the accuracy of any sales forecasting system lies in accurately predicting the close date. It’s a particular problem this month, at the end of the sales year, because aligning everything necessary to close a bookable order requires a great deal of preparation, and quite a bit of luck.

Wandering close dates are another common challenge, particularly because they rarely seem to wander closer to you, but always seem to prefer to drift off towards the horizon.

Now, I know this is hard. I know that sales people can always be prey to external events. But there are a handful of simple measures that every sales leader could and should put in place to mitigate the problem…

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