Why early engagement is critical to sales success

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 16-Oct-2018

The now increasingly discredited BANT (Budget, Authority, Need and Timeframe) approach to opportunity qualification discouraged sales people from pursuing opportunities unless there was a clearly defined project with an already established budget.

Now, if you’re selling low-value commodity-like solutions where there is little scope for differentiation on anything other than price and delivery, or if you are competing in tightly-regulated markets that seek to eliminate any chance of creativity, BANT may still offer a potential approach.

But in complex, high-value B2B sales – and particularly where the customer’s need is real but nascent or poorly-defined – the rigid application of BANT as an early-stage qualifier will cause you to eliminate or abandon opportunities just when you have the strongest chance to influence the prospect’s thinking.

This, surely, is madness...

Read More

Sales pipeline management: let’s stop confusing progress with probability

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 10-Oct-2018

Sales forecasting is hard. For proof, you need look no further than the 2018 CSO Insights Sales Performance study, which reported that on average a little over 46% of all forecasted sales deals actually resulted in a win (never mind the timing).

Even the top performing sales organisations did only marginally better - at just under 54% forecasting success rate on a deal-by-deal basis. Now, there are obvious reasons why accurately predicting the outcome of every complex buying process is fraught with difficulty.

But it’s hard to avoid concluding that we ought to be able to do better. And I’m going to suggest that one of the reasons that organisations struggle to do better is down to simple statistical naivety...

Read More

8 steps to positioning your strategic business value

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 2-Oct-2018

In complex B2B sales environments - particularly ones that involve multiple stakeholders and lengthy and often complicated buying journeys - it's unwise to rush to propose your solution the moment a prospective customer acknowledges or implies that they may have a need that you might be able to solve.

This tendency towards "premature elaboration" has been the ruin of many apparently promising sales opportunities. If it is a significant purchase, and if your customer takes their decision-making seriously, they are going to take their time. rather than racing ahead of their buying journey, you would be far better advised to first establish your distinctive value.

But before you can position the distinctive value of implementing your solution, you first need to position the value of addressing your customer's issues ...

Read More

Targeting your most valuable sales opportunities

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 27-Sep-2018

Many B2B sales and marketing organisations have an unfortunate habit of wasting huge amounts of time and energy pursuing "prospects" that are unlikely to ever become valuable customers, often because there is no common company-wide consensus about which opportunities everybody should be prioritising.

Allowing your organisation to treat every inbound opportunity equally - or encouraging them to respond to every RFP you receive - is agross misuse of valuable resources.

That's why defining, identifying and pro-actively targeting your most valuable opportunities is the essential foundation of any successful value selling initiative. These opportunities must satisfy three critical criteria: they must have the potential to buy something that you are offering, they must be willing to buy from your organisation, and the effort required to win their business must be worth it.

Read More

Avoiding death by stovepipes [guest post]

Posted by David Jackson - Guest on Tue 25-Sep-2018

As anyone who has worked with me or read my articles, I am passionate about ensuring that sales and marketing are aligned in a common cause. But that's not enough: We need to ensure that marketing, sales and customer success are all working together to improve lifetime customer value.

I am delighted to invite David Jackson, CEO of TheCustomerCo - a widely recognised expert in the area of customer focused organisations and the former CEO of Clicktools (an Inflexion-Point client) to share his perspectives on the subject.

Working with Management Today magazine, David introduced and managed the UK Service Excellence Awards (subsequently renamed UK Customer Experience Awards) and is the author of 'Dynamic Organisations' and 'Becoming Dynamic', both published by Macmillan. Avis CEO Alun Cathcart described David's work as "essential reading for all those who lead organisations in the 21st century".

Over to you, David:

Read More

4 key factors influencing B2B buying behaviour

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 20-Sep-2018

In any high-value complex B2B sales environment involving new projects with multiple stakeholders, the buying behaviours and motivations that drive your customer’s decision-making journey are inherently complicated and may be impossible for the average sales person to ever completely understand.

For anything other than inevitable purchases, your customer typically has a number of potential options - each with their respective pros and cons. Each of the individual stakeholders are also likely to have different personal motivations, priorities and decision criteria - often making it hard to establish consensus.

It’s perhaps no surprise that so many apparently promising sales opportunities end with the customer either deciding to do nothing, or to postpone the project until some often-undefined future date. And it’s no wonder that many studies have found that “no decision” is now the most common outcome for such projects.

There are four key factors your sales people need to be aware of when it comes to understanding B2B buying behaviour: status quo bias, loss aversion, decision paralysis and the impact of early influence. Let’s consider each of these factors in turn...

Read More

Sales enablement and the performance gap

Posted by Bob Apollo on Mon 17-Sep-2018

The primary goal of sales enablement must surely be to increase sales effectiveness by progressively reducing the performance gap between our best sales people and the rest, measured by revenue and other tangible metrics.

But it seems to me that a number of sales enablement programmes (typically the less successful ones) have made insufficient efforts to understand the winning behaviours of their top sales performers, or to package these learnings into simple practical and usable tools that can equip competent but otherwise under-performing sales people to embrace these best practices.

It’s a mistake to assume that top performance is largely driven by innate personal abilities that cannot be coached or taught. Of course, that’s often a contributing factor but let’s not ignore another key attribute of top performers: they often have a particularly well-developed ability to learn from their experiences and to adapt their behaviours accordingly.

Read More

Is your BDRs' outreach pertinent or impertinent?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 13-Sep-2018

If you are in a role that tends to attract the attention of other vendors’ business development people, you’ve probably had them reaching out to you with varying degrees of competence. Maybe I’m just unlucky, or maybe I have a magnetic attraction for no-hopers, but if your experience is similar to mine, most of their outreach ends up being at the incompetent end of the spectrum.

Many appear to use a disturbingly common formula: the message starts a falsely personal and over-familiar remark along the lines of “hope you’re doing great” or “hope you’re having a great day”- even though we have never met, and I have no idea who they are (other than that they immediately came across as impertinent and not very bright).

But it then gets worse - because they then typically pivot to an irrelevant, unresearched and impersonal message that simply serves to confirm that they have not done any meaningful research and have not sought to tailor their message to my particular circumstances or situation.

A similarly thoughtless process is behind the majority of LinkedIn requests...

Read More

The non-linear world of B2B buying

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 28-Aug-2018

It’s falsely comforting to think of selling as a process in which one step follows logically after another. But although rigidly defined processes might be the best way of running a manufacturing production line, they fail to reflect the reality of any moderately complicated sales environment.

It would be convenient if things were simpler. But the brutal truth of the matter is that in complex B2B sales our customer’s buying processes are rarely linear, compounded by the fact that they are sometimes poorly defined and even if they appear to be well defined are not always well understood by the customer themselves [by the way, you can click on the above image to see a larger version].

Rather following a hypothetically straight path, many customer decision journeys zig and zag, go backwards as well as forwards, find themselves way off-piste, struggle to achieve consensus, can be redirected at the behest of a single powerful individual and can be abandoned at any stage along the way...

Read More

In complex B2B sales, stakeholders have more than one dimension

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 22-Aug-2018

In complex B2B sales, there’s a common recognition that multiple stakeholders are almost always involved in the decision-making process. Research by the CEB (now part of Gartner) found that the average number was 6.8 and rising.

In some deals, that number is even higher, and it’s increasingly rare for a single decision maker to be able to drive through a significant business purchase without the active involvement of their colleagues.

Few sales leaders would disagree with the importance of identifying, engaging and assessing these stakeholders. But many sales methodologies take an over-simplistic approach, attempting to categorise these stakeholders along a single dimension...

Read More