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ESTABLISHING DISTINCTIVE VALUE IN CHALLENGING TIMES

Assumptions kill opportunities

Posted by Bob Apollo on Fri 1-Nov-2019

I’ve had the opportunity to sit in on a number of QBRs with my clients, and as an outside observer I’m struck by how common it is for salespeople to make untested assumptions that directly affect the accuracy of their sales forecasts and the outcomes of their sales opportunities.

It’s all-too-easy for salespeople - particularly if they have relentlessly positive personalities - to fall into the assumption trap, and to confuse hope with evidence. It’s easy to project past experiences onto current situations, and to assume that they will lead to the same results.

And it’s all too easy (to draw upon one of my recent articles) for salespeople to succumb to avoidable errors of ignorance or application. The conclusion is clear: assumptions kill opportunities. So how can sales leaders create an environment that avoids these mistakes?

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The why, how, what and who of sales checklists

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 30-Oct-2019

When Harvard Medical School Professor (and BBC Reith Lecturer) Atul Gawande published his “Checklist Manifesto” nearly 10 years ago, it soon became apparent that the application of simple checklists - which have transformed patient outcomes in healthcare systems around the world in recent years - had implications far beyond the world of medicine or aviation.

There are many parallels between the worlds of medicine and sales, not least of which the idea that both surgeons and salespeople often tend to have a very high regard for their personal capabilities and a natural distaste for working within what they see as over-rigid systems that prevent them from practising their craft.

Checklists have been recognised as essential contributors to aviation safety for decades. But it turns out that the disciplined application of checklists in sales and medicine also have profound benefits for everyone concerned - for both the practitioners and the patients (or customers in a sales environment) ...

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Sales perfection is impossible!

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 24-Oct-2019

There are so many potential variables and unknowns in any complex B2B sales environment that the idea of running a completely perfect sales campaign feels like an impossible dream (or more accurately a hallucination).

That’s why rigid sales scripts, standard sales presentations and canned product demonstrations are largely ineffective in convincing the modern prospect to move forward with you - they expect more than that from you.

But it is entirely possible - and I would argue, very necessary - to focus on avoiding predictable and preventable errors when pursuing a sales opportunity...

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Please tell me something I don’t already know

Posted by Bob Apollo on Mon 21-Oct-2019

Corporate Visions recently hosted a webinar on how to gain access to business executives. Their findings were based on a series of realistic simulations intended to identify which messages senior business executives were most likely to respond to (there’s a link to their conclusions at the bottom of this article).

Their research compared the impact of a range of different messaging approaches, including product value, ROI, provocative insight and competitive benchmark-led models in an environment where the vendor was vaguely familiar but not particularly well-known to the prospective customer executive.

I’ll leave you to review the detailed conclusions, but for me the most profound take-away was the idea that when considering whether to invest their time busy executives need to believe that, by taking the proposed call or meeting, they will learn something they don’t already know...

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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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