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The Inflexion-Point Blog: VALUE SELLING STRATEGIES

Bob Apollo

Bob Apollo is founder of Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners - enabling growth-phase B2B-focused sales organisations to Sell in the Breakthrough Zone
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Recent Posts

The most important thing a proposal needs to sell

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 10-Oct-2019

When your salespeople submit a proposal, it should always represent the natural culmination of a series of value creating conversations with their potential customer.

The contents should not come as a surprise. The recommendations should reflect an already established set of agreements with the key stakeholders. So why are so many sales proposals so ineffective?

One of the obvious reasons is that they were submitted as a blind response to an unexpected RFP and did not actually reflect any meaningful dialogue with the prospect (I’ve explained why this is so unproductive here).

But a less obvious but unfortunately all-too-common explanation is that the proposal has failed to sell the thing that is almost always most important to the ultimate decision-makers...

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Selling against the status quo

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 8-Oct-2019

You’re probably all too well aware of the statistic that the majority of apparently well-qualified complex B2B buying journeys end with the potential customer either deciding to do nothing or to change nothing.

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RFPs: how to avoid being column fodder

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 24-Sep-2019

The term “cannon fodder” is used as a somewhat dismissive description for soldiers who were regarded by their generals as expendable and were forced to fight against often hopeless odds in order to achieve an often-unrealistic military goal. First used in the 19th century, the term came to exemplify the trench warfare of the First World War.

You might think that no well-informed, rational soldier would willingly volunteer for such duties. Yet many salespeople find themselves in somewhat similar although less terminal situations, fighting against hopeless odds in a struggle they are predestined to lose.

After licking their wounds, some are even crazy enough to return to the same unfriendly battleground time and time again. I am, of course, referring to the situation in which these “column fodder” salespeople choose to respond to unexpected RFPs in the typically unjustifiable hope they may somehow get lucky and win.

But to mix military and sporting metaphors, they are hardly playing on a level playing field. Another vendor is often already in pole position (“Column A”) and all the other hapless bidders (in all the other columns) are often only there to make up the numbers or satisfy a procedural purchasing requirement…

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Spotlight on Strategic Selling

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 12-Sep-2019

In this, the second of my series of articles for the International Journal of Sales Transformation on today’s leading sales methodologies, I want to turn to another long-established approach - Strategic Selling® from the Miller Heiman Group.

Their Strategic Selling methodology is particularly effective in complex B2B sales environments with large decision-making groups and often lengthy and convoluted buying decision journeys. It helps sales people to break down complex situations into manageable components, and to focus on developing mutually beneficial relationships with their clients.

It would take more than a short article to do full justice to the methodology - so I’m going to selectively highlight a few of the concepts that have proven to be particularly useful over the years. Many of them - although they might have appeared to be revolutionary when first introduced - have become now recognised as mainstream thinking...

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Helping your customer make sense of complexity

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 3-Sep-2019

Making a buying decision has never been more complicated. Your customers have access to an overwhelming amount of information - often inconsistent, and frequently false or incomplete. They seek consensus when making buying decisions - but have to somehow align a growing number of stakeholders with often conflicting priorities.

And they have to navigate an increasingly complex and non-linear buying journey that often twists and turns and is as capable of going sideways or backwards as it is going forwards in response to new information, new circumstances or the involvement of new members of the decision group.

Faced with this complexity, we shouldn’t be surprised that sales cycles are lengthening, that win rates are declining or that the most common outcome of even an apparently well qualified sales opportunity is for the customer to decide that their easiest path is to simply stick with the status quo, after all...

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A fresh perspective on the Challenger Sale research

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 21-Aug-2019

First published in 2011, “The Challenger Sale” must be one of the most widely-read sales books of the past decade, and with good reason. Together with its successor “The Challenger Customer” (which I believe is an even more influential book), it served to introduce powerful new perspectives about today’s increasingly complex B2B sales environment.

The books included a lot of thought-provoking original research - including the widely misinterpreted idea that, on average, the typical B2B buying process is 57% complete before the average customer is ready to talk to a salesperson. The reality, of course, is that the actual figure varies significantly depending on (amongst other things) whether the customer is involved in a familiar or unfamiliar purchase.

But that wasn’t the only data point or - in my opinion - the most important insight, and in a recent webinar the Challenger® team shared some of their latest research into B2B buying motivations. I think you’ll find the conclusions fascinating...

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Who are your ideal customers?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Fri 9-Aug-2019

Most sales organisations - and most of the sales people who work for them - are capable of describing their target market in broad demographic terms. They might, for example, choose to focus on organisations of a certain size, in one or a number of industries, in one or a number of geographical locations.

Their marketing departments might be chartered to build lists and to generate leads with these characteristics. And, of course, it’s relatively easy to identify target companies by applying these simple filters. But there’s a problem - particularly in complex B2B environments: these basic demographic characteristics are very poor predictors of whether any specific organisation is actually likely to do business with you.

It’s no wonder that “leads” that have been generated are rarely treated with urgency or enthusiasm by the sales people receiving them. They know from bitter experience that that the majority of these enquiries will turn out to be duds...

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Why are so many CRM implementations still failing?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 24-Jul-2019

According to many market analysts, the market for CRM solutions shows no signs of slowing down. It’s increasingly rare to find established sales organisations of any significant size without some form of CRM solution.

And yet when I talk to many sales leaders about the current state of their CRM implementation, the most consistent impression is one of promise unfulfilled.

They frequently acknowledge that key success metrics around data quality, sales team adoption and impact on revenue still have a great deal of room for improvement.

Of all the possible influences on success, enthusiastic sales force adoption is probably the most critical. So why is it so hard to persuade sales people of CRM’s potential to improve their own personal performance?

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How likely is your customer to take action?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Mon 8-Jul-2019

One of the most significant mistakes any sales person can make is to assume that their prospective customer is inevitably going to buy something, and that the only remaining questions are what, when, and who from.

Some purchases are admittedly inevitable - for example when an organisation needs to guarantee a source of raw materials for an essential process. But the vast majority of business purchases are discretionary in some way or another.

It’s no wonder that - according to a wide range of research - the most common outcome of a potential B2B buying exercise is actually a decision to “do nothing” and to stick with the status quo.

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Spotlight on Sandler

Posted by Bob Apollo on Fri 5-Jul-2019

I’ve been commissioned by the International Journal of Sales Transformation to write a series of articles comparing and contrasting today’s most popular sales methodologies, and I plan to share them with you as they are published.

In my first article I turn the spotlight onto Sandler Selling. Introduced by David Sandler in 1967 as an antidote to conventional product-centric, hard-selling tactics, the approach aims to achieve a more equitable balance of power between the buyer and the seller.

By emphasising rapport-building and empathy, and by focusing on the prospective customer’s pains, rather than the vendor’s solutions, Sandler’s methodology seeks to establish the foundation for honest dialogue between the buyer and the seller...

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