Filling the Value Vacuum

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 23-May-2017

The precise proportions vary a little depending on what researcher you listen to, but the general conclusion is remarkably consistent: the majority of meetings with sales people generate little meaningful value for the potential customer. They often turn out to be a complete waste of their time.

A big part of the explanation can be found in studies that conclude that customers value business expertise four times more highly than product knowledge but that the average sales person is four times more comfortable discussing product details than having a business issue focused conversation.

Given this imbalance, perhaps it’s no wonder that it has become so difficult to persuade a prospect to accept an initial phone call or a meeting, or to get them to agree to advance beyond the initial stages of a sales interaction. They simply don’t see the value in spending any more of their precious time...

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Would you prefer your sales people to be heroes or pragmatists?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 16-May-2017

What I have to say probably won’t go down particularly well with a sector of the sales improvement community whose primary purpose seems to be to convert every sales person into a superhuman hero capable of leaping customer objections in a single bound.

Well, it might sell books to people hoping for miracle cures, but the approach is neither realistic, practical nor particularly effective. In the complex and complicated of B2B buying these “heroic” techniques are likely to be counter-productive.

There is no miracle cure (and no instant fix) for improving sales effectiveness. It takes focus, hard work, and doing more of the right things with more of the right people in more of the right organisations. And, of course, it means not wasting valuable resources on quixotic quests…

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Stop trying to sell to the wrong organisations!

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 11-May-2017

I want to turn my attention in this article to a pattern I see repeated across a number of the clients that have approached me looking for help in improving their sales effectiveness.

These companies typically have a technology-based solution of some sort, and have traditionally been attempting to sell largely on the basis of their product’s superior features or capabilities.

But - even when they have demonstrated a superior problem-solution fit, and even when they have secured the recommendation of the people evaluating potential solutions - they struggle to close the business.

In some cases, the business ends up going to a technically inferior solution. In others, the decision to buy gets deferred in favour of another competing priority. If you recognise any of these symptoms, I’d like to suggest some remedies…

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Competing against "do nothing" and "do something completely different"

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 10-May-2017

Complex B2B buying decisions are fundamentally exercises in change management and in an increasing number of cases even apparently well-qualified prospects, after carefully evaluating their options, are deciding to stick with the status quo and not change anything - at least for the moment.

After investing significant time energy and resources into an opportunity, it can be incredibly frustrating to lose to “do nothing”.

The only consolation is that at least the prospect didn’t choose a competitor, and the door may still remain open for a possible future sale. But let’s face it, losing to a decision to “do nothing” is both dispiriting and a waste of resources that could otherwise have been applied to a more winnable opportunity…

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The essence of successful positioning

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 2-May-2017

When it comes to positioning (and getting your message across), most B2B sales organisations face either a crowded or a barren landscape. If you’re in an established market, you need to find a way of standing out from a crowd of competitors, many of whom probably have significant marketing budgets.

If you’re trying to create a new market, you’re faced with the challenge that your target audience may not recognise the category that you’re trying to create, nor regard the challenges you are seeking to address as being relevant to them.

Either way, without a distinctive message delivered in a distinctive manner, you’re going to struggle to break through with your communications...

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What causes your prospects to start searching for solutions?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 25-Apr-2017

Even if you’ve managed to focus on the critical issues that matter most to your prospects, profiled and targeted your ideal customers and identified and engaged your most promising potential change agents, there’s still a very real possibility that you won’t actually create as many short-term opportunities as you might hope.

It turns out that even your best-qualified targets are simply not in an active buying cycle most of the time. Sure, they may download your collateral and form a favourable opinion of your capabilities. But until and unless something happens to challenge the status quo, they are likely to remain passive consumers.

That’s why trigger events are so important: they cause your prospects to take a fresh perspective. They cause them to realise that their current situation may not get them where they now recognise they need to be. They cause them to acknowledge that they may have to change their behaviour…

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In Complex B2B Sales there are 3 key stakeholder groups

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 20-Apr-2017

The idea that complex B2B buying decisions inevitably involve multiple stakeholders is widely acknowledged, even if the number of actively engaged decision makers can sometimes catch sales people unawares.

The authors of “The Challenger Customer” now reckon that an average of 6.8 stakeholders are actively involved in the typical high-value buying decision process - and point out that the number can easily rise into double figures.

But it’s often even more complicated than that - because in many B2B sales you have to convince three key stakeholder groups…

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Targeting Change Agents

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 18-Apr-2017

One of the biggest challenges for any sales person when qualifying a new potential sales opportunity is judging whether the deal is real - and whether the initial contact is someone who has the ability to make things happen.

Sometimes it’s obvious that the person reaching out to you is on an information gathering exercise for someone else, or simply pursuing an enquiry based on nothing more than personal curiosity.

But often, the person comes across as credible. They may even claim to be the decision maker. How can we make a more informed judgement about whether they are really capable of driving the change agenda?

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Identifying your Ideal Customers

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 12-Apr-2017

Companies (and individual sales people) can and often do waste an awful amount of time, money and energy pursuing organisations that are never likely to buy - or, if they were to, are never likely to buy from your organisation.

Many marketers have jumped on the bandwagon of buyer personas over the past few years, but these are typically targeted at individual roles, and have served to conceal a potentially more important truth: companies have personas, too…

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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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