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The Outcome-Centric Selling Blog

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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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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