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The Outcome-Centric Selling Blog

Answering every new customer's 4 key questions

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 29-Jun-2022

If your prospective customer is seriously evaluating a new project that involves both a significant investment and a change to their existing approach or environment, it is close-to-inevitable that they will be seeking clear answers to 4 key questions (and a clear consensus across all key members of their decision-making and approval stakeholder groups) before they will be prepared to make a commitment:

  1. WHY do they need to CHANGE (rather than stay on their current path)?
  2. WHY should they choose YOU (rather than any other option)?
  3. WHY do they need to act NOW (rather than later)?
  4. WHY should they APPROVE this project (rather than a competing investment - who will benefit, and how)?

If there is any uncertainty, ambiguity, lack of substance or doubt about any of the answers, your prospective customer is likely (at best) to delay their decision until things have been resolved, or to abandon their project and stick with the status quo (statistically the most common outcome).

That's why it is so important that salespeople follow a process that ensures that all of these elements are covered in their sales conversations and captured in their proposal to the customer - and it's why we've updated our "why commit" value story framework...

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How can anyone sell value without values?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Fri 17-Jun-2022

I recently participated in a webinar with LeveragePoint on the subject of “establishing a value-centric culture in your B2B sales organisation”. It’s a topic I care deeply about, and I’ve included a link to both the recording and the deck at the bottom of this article.

I thought you might find it worthwhile if I summarise some of my conclusions, and to try to explain why I believe that we cannot successfully claim to “sell value” without demonstrating the necessary values...

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The changing face of value in B2B sales

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 24-May-2022

It's been a while since my last blog, but I'm pleased to be returning to the action with an article that I wrote for the current issue of the International Journal of Sales Transformation, which I think you'll appreciate.

It leads to the conclusion - which I suspect will come as no surprise to regular readers - that we need to stop talking about the "value" of our so-called "solutions" and start focusing on the value of our customer's outcomes...

It seems as if the phrase “sell on value, not on price” must have been around since shortly after the dawn of B2B selling, and it would be hard to argue with the sentiment. But what do we actually mean by value - and perhaps more important, how do our customers perceive value?

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Coaching - the critical sales management skill?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 11-Jan-2022

This article was first published in the latest edition (issue 8.1 - January 2022) of the International Journal of Sales Transformation. To learn more about this excellent publication, follow the link at the bottom of this article.

Successful sales managers must master a range of important skills. They need to make sure that they recruit the right people and help them to realise their potential, encourage their teams to follow and contribute to the organisation’s learned best practices, ensure that opportunities are well-qualified, that pipelines are well managed and that forecasts are consistently accurate. I’m sure you can think of more.

But perhaps the overriding skill - if sales managers are to get the very best out of every member of their sales organisation - is their ability to coach, and their willingness to commit the amount of time required in the coaching process. I addressed some of these concepts in an earlier article “Establishing the Foundations of a Coaching Culture” in issue 7.3 of the journal, and I now want to expand on some of the themes introduced there.

In particular, I want to focus on three areas:

  • Devoting the appropriate amount of time to coaching
  • Acquiring the skills necessary to be an effective coach
  • Developing the mindset needed to be an effective coach
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The What, Why and How of Outcome-Centric Selling®

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 16-Dec-2021

I believe that it would be hard to argue that B2B selling hasn't changed significantly in recent times - and equally hard to deny that it will inevitably continue to evolve.

The reason, of course, is that B2B buying behaviour - particularly when it comes to significant, complicated buying decisions - is also changing significantly, not least in terms of the number of stakeholders involved in the decision and approval processes.

In my latest on-demand webinar, I identify four key trends that are shaping our environment and fuelling the movement towards outcome-centric selling. I hope that you'll find the conclusions relevant to what you're seeking to achieve in your own sales organisation...

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What should B2B sales leaders be prioritising in 2022?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Mon 29-Nov-2021

I was delighted to be asked to contribute the following article to the International Journal of Sales Transformation's special report on "Emerging from the Pandemic". I chose to focus on issues that I believe B2B sales leaders should be prioritising in 2022. As always, I'd welcome your comments.

As we head towards 2022, sales organisations are emerging from a tumultuous two years. Across many markets and industries, the sales function has had to cope with transformational changes that have been compressed into a short period of time.

Inevitably, some sales organisations have managed to adapt better than others. They have embraced virtual working and are now trying to understand what the “new normal” is going to look like - almost inevitably some sort of hybrid model that combines digital, virtual and on-site selling.

Just as inevitably, some salespeople have managed to adapt better than others. The best and brightest have embraced new ways of working, mastered new skills and refocused their energies on redefining, identifying and engaging their most promising sales opportunities...

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Why a generic “unique selling proposition” isn’t enough...

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 23-Nov-2021

Marketers are keen to create what they refer to as “unique selling propositions”. According to Wikipedia, a unique selling proposition (USP) - also sometimes called unique value proposition (UVP) refers to “the unique benefit exhibited by a company, service, product, or brand that enables it to stand out from competitors”. This USP/UVP is then communicated in marketing messages and materials and reflected in sales tools

Now, whilst this concept might be sufficient to drive many B2C (business-to-consumer) purchases, and maybe a few simple B2B (business-to-business) transactional sales, the complex nature of most high-value B2B sales makes it an entirely inadequate and incomplete way of establishing genuine and relevant value.

In complex B2B buying journeys - which nowadays frequently involve double-digit numbers of actively engaged stakeholders - the idea that the same single generic unique selling proposition that is trotted out to every other potential customer is going to persuade a wide range of different decision-making and approval groups is an obvious nonsense.

And whilst a generic value proposition might be enough to attract the prospective customer’s initial attention, every qualified prospect deserves and needs their own unique value story - and if you are to earn their support, every stakeholder must recognise the benefits that your proposal will bring to them and the function they represent.

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What are Priority Issue Profiles - and why do you need them?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Fri 15-Oct-2021

This article was first published in the October Edition of Top Sales Magazine.

Many of you will be familiar with the idea of having an Ideal Customer Profile - and if you’re not, you should be. The Ideal Customer Profile is a powerful tool that helps to align your entire organisation around the common characteristics of your most valuable existing and potential customers - a combination of demographic, structural and behavioural/cultural factors.

Having an Ideal Customer Profile (or profiles, if you have multiple solution offerings) enables you to much more accurately target and qualify potential new customers, and to rank your existing customers in terms of their future potential value. But it’s not enough.

In addition to identifying the right organisations, you also need to be laser-focused on the issues that you are really good at solving - issues that are important to these ideal customers and which you are potentially better placed than any other potential option to help them address. And that’s where your Priority Issue Profiles come in...

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The critical role of trust in sales

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 30-Sep-2021

At a time when the level of public trust in the UK's elected politicians has never been lower, it's an opportunity to reflect on the critical role of trust in sales, which is what I chose to focus on in this article from the latest edition of the International Journal of Sales Transformation...

Trust is an essential foundational element in any sales environment - and it can (and must) take many forms. Perhaps the most obvious manifestation lies in the relationship between the salesperson (and the vendor they represent) and the customer’s decision-making group (and the organisation they represent).

But trust must also be established in the relationships that exist within the vendor’s organisation, between the vendor and their commercial partners and between the vendor and all the other influential members of the ecosystem - such as the press, analysts, consultants and all the other observers, commentators, and participants.

In my experience, this network of trust cannot be established unless the sales organisation itself works on the basis of internal trustworthiness, honest communications and mutual respect. Where these elements are lacking internally, they make it hard to establish a culture that is capable of developing trusted relationships with prospects, customers and the people and organisations that influence them...

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Identifying, engaging, and assessing our stakeholders

Posted by Bob Apollo on Fri 17-Sep-2021

How many stakeholders are involved in the typical complex high-value B2B buying journey? It’s fair to say that the number is often larger than the average salesperson is aware of, let alone in close contact with.

Various studies have put the average number of active stakeholders anywhere between 5-12 in large and complex buying decisions - and in some cases the number will be even higher.

This is important because organisations have learned from painful experience that autocratic, top-down decisions rarely result in a successful implementation.

In today’s consensus-seeking management environment, without the support of a broad range of key stakeholders, decisions are likely to be delayed or abandoned.

That’s why it’s never been more important for salespeople to identify, engage, assess, and build positive relationships with as many members of their prospective customer’s stakeholder group as possible...

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