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The Outcome-Centric Selling Blog

Webinar: Three Gaps and a Bridge

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 1-Sep-2021

I recently recorded a webinar with LeveragePoint (link below) about “making a compelling case for change”. Those of you who have followed me over the years know that this has long been a favourite topic of mine, and with good reason: “no decision”, doing nothing and sticking with the status quo has become unfortunately common outcome.

In fact, according to many analysts, a decision to “do nothing” is now the most common result of discretionary purchasing projects in complex environments that require the prospect to accept that significant change is going to be required.

Faced with the prospect of disruption, unless the benefits of change are seen to significantly outweigh the investment required, and unless the ultimate approvers can reach a consensus, the majority of organisations conclude that they might was well simply continue on their current path....

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Establishing the foundations of a coaching culture

Posted by Bob Apollo on Mon 26-Jul-2021

This article was first published in issue 7.3 of the International Journal of Sales Transformation, and I'm very pleased to be able to share it here...

What’s the one thing that separates truly effective first level B2B sales managers from the rest? You can make a case for their ability to motivate, or to create an environment of responsibility and accountability, but there’s good reason to believe that their ability to coach, develop and get the best out of their people is their single most important asset.

But there’s a problem: although coaching is a trainable skill, few first level sales managers have been formally trained in it. Even sales organisation that invest significantly in training their salespeople frequently fail to invest appropriately in developing the skills of their managers - despite the obvious impact that these sorts of investments could have on their long-term success.

Compounding the problem, few first level sales managers spend anything like enough time on coaching or establish a regular cadence for it. Although studies from Objective Management Group and others suggest that front line sales managers need to invest anything from a quarter to a third of their time on coaching, many spend less than 10% of their time on it, and often don’t do even that particularly well.

It doesn’t help that many sales managers are appointed to their first sales management role primarily because of the results they achieved as salespeople. But the correlation between being a great salesperson and a good sales manager is questionable - particularly if the salesperson’s results were achieved because of a lucky territory assignment or (worse) a single-minded lone wolf style determination to succeed at all costs regardless of the consequences...

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Is it time to stop allowing the Covid excuse?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 20-Jul-2021

One of the most illuminating elements of Objective Management Group’s sales evaluation methodology is the way in which it explores and exposes each salesperson’s motivations, mindset and self-limiting beliefs - their “Sales DNA”.

The findings are clear, and the correlation irrefutable: even if salespeople have been trained in areas such as prospecting, reaching decision makers, qualifying, consultative selling, selling value, forecasting and “closing”, these skills are most effective when they are combined with an appropriately positive sales mindset.

By “appropriately positive” I don’t mean the reckless over-confidence that you can observe in some old-school salespeople, and which almost always results in them under-delivering against their promises.

I mean the self-awareness, the self-honesty and the unwillingness to make or accept excuses that characterises the most consistently effective salespeople...

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Are your salespeople three whys men (and women)?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 6-Jul-2021

For my latest article for Top Sales Magazine, I’ve decided to explore the power of three whys and a who...

When it comes to complex B2B buying decision journeys, things are rarely straightforward. As Gartner are fond of reminding us, our prospective customers’ decision processes are typically complex, involve multiple stakeholders, and are often far from linear.

Simply understanding and satisfying their needs is rarely enough. Having the “best” offering (whatever that means) does not guarantee success. In fact, if a discretionary rather than an inevitable purchase is involved, the odds they will do anything at all are typically no better than 50/50.

In addition to uncovering, developing and satisfying their prospective customer’s needs, today’s B2B salespeople also need to both understand and influence how and why their prospective customers choose to buy - and that involves three whys and a who...

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Latest webinar: the essentials of sales opportunity qualification

Posted by Bob Apollo on Fri 2-Jul-2021

One of the key things that separates great salespeople from the rest is their commitment to rigorously qualifying every potential opportunity. They have the confidence to disqualify weak opportunities early on the cycle before they have wasted significant resources on a lost or losing cause, because they know they can reinvest their energies in finding and winning more promising opportunities.

Compare that to their less confident, less effective colleagues, who are often inclined to cling on to weak or poorly qualified opportunities for fear that disqualifying them will make their pipeline look smaller. This isn’t just the salesperson’s fault, of course: sales managers have to bear a large amount of the blame for weak qualification and the wasted sales cycles that inevitably follow.

I was very pleased to recently share the stage with Annette Behrendt of PDAGroup for a deep dive into the critical subject of sales qualification. I’ve included a link below but wanted also to share some of the key topics we covered...

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Why your customers want to buy is as important as what they want to buy

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 10-Jun-2021

You’d hope, wouldn’t you, that most salespeople understand what their prospective customers want to buy. You’d expect, wouldn’t you, that your salespeople understand what their prospects think they need before making a proposal.

That may, of course, be sufficient in a relatively simple, transactional environment where the prospective customer is in the process of making an inevitable purchase.

But no matter how good a job your salespeople do when it comes to understanding and hopefully influencing what their prospects think they need, understanding what their prospects want to buy is only part of the picture.

In complex, discretionary B2B buying environments it’s just as important - often more important - to understand why your prospective customer has embarked on their buying journey.

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The future of B2B selling is collaborative

Posted by Bob Apollo on Fri 4-Jun-2021

I recently participated in a fascinating panel discussion facilitated by Jonathan Farrington of Top Sales World on “Identifying the New Post-Covid Frontline Sales Professional” with Dave Mattson of Sandler Training and Lisa Leitch of Teneo Results. I’ve included a link to the recording at the bottom of this article.

Needless to say, there was a lot of discussion about what the future of B2B buying was going to look like, and what the implications are going to be for the B2B sales profession.

Of course, none of us knows for sure that the future balance is going to be between virtual, face-to-face and automated selling, but it’s probably safe to assume that it won’t involve a complete reversion to the world as it was in 2019.

However, there was a general consensus that - driven by the impact of both Covid-19 and other factors - the future of complex B2B selling was going to be increasingly collaborative, and I believe that there are some profound implications for the sales community...

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The law of averages does not apply to complex B2B sales

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 1-Jun-2021

Soon after “The Challenger Sale” was published, you could see a stream of lazy commentators homing in on one percentage prominently quoted in the book – that the average B2B buying decision process was “57% complete” before the customer wanted to talk to a salesperson – and using it to justify their position on a bunch of unrelated issues.

Similar figures have been published by other researchers, and to the same effect: to paraphrase Andrew Lang, the commentators who thoughtlessly requote these statistics are guilty of using them like drunk people use lampposts – to support their own positions rather than offering illumination to others.

The inconvenient fact, of course, is that there is no such thing as an “average B2B buying journey”, particularly where a complicated and significant decision is involved. Every opportunity is different. Some opportunities involve salespeople early and others involve them late or never at all.

Basing any B2B sales strategy on the “57% assumption” is both reckless and incompetent. Like many other aspects of the real world, and like it or not, the truth is much more complicated...

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Supercharging our sales conversations

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 27-Apr-2021

This article first appeared in the April 2021 "Supercharging Sales" issue of the International Journal of Sales Transformation.

Given the overall theme of the magazine, I thought it might be appropriate to focus on a topic that has long been a focus of mine - how can salespeople supercharge their sales conversations?

Given that - according to research by Forrester and others - customers report that the majority of conversations they have with potential vendors create little-to-no positive value (and often leave them with a negative impression), there is clear scope to have more impactful interactions.

By the way, the one thing we want to avoid when “supercharging” our sales conversations is to talk more quickly. All of the available evidence shows that top performing salespeople speak slowly, clearly and confidently and take their time to make their points without being verbose....

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Exploding the 3* sales pipeline coverage myth

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 21-Apr-2021

One of the most unhelpful “rules of thumb” in B2B selling is the long standing and widely quoted myth that the benchmark standard when it comes to sales pipeline management is 3* quota coverage.

I’ve struggled to find any original research that justified this - and even if there was any, the concept has been around for so long that any original research must now be well and truly out of date.

This 3* rule of thumb is no more accurate (and not much more useful) than a stopped watch that happens to tell the right time twice a day.

So - what is the optimal level of sales pipeline coverage? If you’re looking for a lazy, simplistic general answer then I’m afraid you’re inevitably going to be disappointed - because the only universally accurate answer is “it depends”...

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