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The Inflexion-Point Blog: VALUE SELLING STRATEGIES

B2B sales: six steps to value

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 19-Jul-2018

One of the biggest frustrations for today’s sales leaders is their sales peoples’ apparent inability to connect the business value of their solutions with the business issues of their prospective customers. It’s not a new phenomenon - we’ve been wrestling with it for years.

We can find an explanation in research reported by Corporate Visions that the average business executive is at least 4 times more interested by business insights than by product features whilst the average sales person is 4 times more confident talking about their offerings than about their customer’s business challenges.

The problem is amplified by the average sales person’s habit of pitching their solution the moment the customer acknowledges a need, rather than continuing to learn about the problem and its implications. Top performers know better. So how does their behaviour differ?

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B2B sales: what should we be measuring?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 17-Jul-2018

If we’re in sales, there are two obvious monetary measures of our success: revenue and margin. Revenue is particularly important for organisations that are primarily concerned with driving top line growth. Margin is particularly important for organisations that are primarily focused on growing a profitable bottom line.

The relative importance of these two metrics can vary according to what type of business and what stage of development we are in, but I can’t recall coming across a B2B sales organisation that hasn’t defined one or the other (or both) as their primary success metric.

But what else should we be measuring?

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3 fundamental goals of sales leadership

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 5-Jul-2018

The art and science of sales leadership is clearly complicated, but the fundamental goals of sales leadership - at least from my observations of complex B2B sales environments - seem to be remarkably consistent:

  • They want to be confident that they are going to consistently achieve their revenue targets
  • They want to progressively narrow the performance gap between their best sales people and the rest, and
  • They want to ensure that they hire the right new sales people and make them productive quickly

If any of these goals are important to you, I hope the following experiences might prove relevant to your situation...

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14 critical activities every sales person needs to master

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 27-Jun-2018

Whenever we attempt break down the key success factors in managing complex B2B sales opportunities, it soon becomes apparent that there are a number of critical activities that need to be mastered between the first contact with a potential customer and the conclusion of a successful sale.

And when we go on to compare the differences between our top sales people and their less-effective colleagues, it is usually equally obvious that the competence and skill with which they perform these critical activities has a profound impact on their outcomes.

Over many years, and following dozens of sales effectiveness assignments, I’ve identified 14 critical factors that seem to have a consistently important impact on sales success. I wonder how my experiences compare with yours?

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Our prospects are qualifying us, too...

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 21-Jun-2018

Just as the discovery process is best thought of (and most effective) as a two-way exercise, so is the closely-related opportunity qualification process. We can think of qualification as one of the key outcomes of an effective discovery process.

Many sales people tend to behave as if qualification is something they do to rather than with a prospective customer, but we need to recognise that our prospect is also trying to qualify both the nature and seriousness of their problem and our credibility as a potential solution provider.

Just as top sales people have too much respect for their own time to waste it chasing poorly qualified “opportunities” that are either never likely to close or never likely to buy from us, our most valuable potential customers are also trying to qualify whether the problem is worth bothering about and whether we are a credible source of the necessary expertise.

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Opportunity Coaching for Fun and Profit

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 19-Jun-2018

My latest contribution has just been published in the June 2018 edition of the always-excellent International Journal of Sales Transformation. You'll find a limited-period free subscription offer at the bottom of this reprint - I strongly recommend that you take advantage!

I used the opportunity to focus attention on an area that has become a particular interest of mine: using coaching techniques to help our sales people develop significantly more effective opportunity strategies.

I’ve observed organisations that do a particularly effective job of opportunity coaching, viewed others at the opposite end of the scale that appear to ignore the topic altogether, and seen and experienced most points in between.

There seem to be a handful of consistent success factors...

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Why our sales discovery process must always be two-way

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 13-Jun-2018

I’ve written before about the critical importance of the discovery process in complex B2B sales. It’s a favourite subject, and with good reason - in my experience the quality of initial discovery is a vital predictor of subsequent sales success.

But it’s critically important that the discovery exercise doesn't just involve us asking the prospective customer a series of questions that are primarily aimed at helping us to qualify the account, the contact and the opportunity.

If discovery is seen by our prospect as only being for our benefit, it’s all-too-easy for these discussions to descend into a relentlessly one-directional “20-Questions” process that can easily discourage our potential customer from continuing the conversation.

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Why your salespeople should never do product demonstrations

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 7-Jun-2018

I imagine we’ve all sat through at least one of these at some stage of our careers: a software demonstration that is nothing more or less than a relentless and apparently never-ending stream of product features thrown out at the audience in the misguided hope that at least some of them might prove relevant or attractive.

It’s a horrible and unproductive tactic: assuming that our prospective customer hasn’t already zoned out, it places responsibility on them to imagine whether this or that widget might have any relevance to something that is important to them.

This seems to be a particular problem for technically-orientated demonstrators: they are often so proud of how clever their product is that they can’t resist introducing yet another feature of function. There’s no story, no coherence, and no respect for the audience.

Yes, demonstrations - at the right time, and in the right context - can be a vital element of a successful sales cycle. I just believe that there’s a much better way of achieving this than doing a conventional product demonstration...

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Is this the most counterproductive sales metric?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 5-Jun-2018

If we’re driven by data and interested in statistics, there are a wide range of sales metrics we can choose to monitor. Assuming that we have collected the data in the first place, we can measure win rates, sales cycle velocity, changes in deal value or close date and all manner of other indicators.

If our data is good enough and we know how to interpret it, and if we are able to slice and dice it (and I realise that these are big “ifs”) then we can come to some powerful and illuminating conclusions about how and where we can most effectively improve sales performance and revenue reliability.

But I have in mind a metric that’s rather easier to measure - even with the least sophisticated CRM system or spreadsheet - and yet is capable of driving desperately dysfunctional behaviours if it is not used in an intelligent fashion. Can you guess what it is?

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Is sales “process” really the right metaphor?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 31-May-2018

The term “sales process” has become an almost universal cliché (and yes, I have been as guilty as the rest). Research is regularly published to prove that organisations with a defined “sales process” outperform their less well organised competitors.

In simple, high-volume sales environments - where success is often seen as a numbers game, and where sales people do not need to be overly sophisticated in their approach - I can see how having a process can help.

But in complex, lengthy, high-value sales environments that require sophisticated sales skills, the idea of a rigid, universally applied and consistently implemented step-by-step sales process seems increasingly inappropriate and ineffective.

I’m writing this article today because I’ve just listened to a video that likened a sales process to the step-by-step, corner-by-corner instructions we might get from a satellite navigation system. This seems to me to be an entirely inappropriate metaphor, and here’s why...

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