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The Inflexion-Point Blog: VALUE SELLING STRATEGIES

The 2 critical factors behind B2B sales forecast confidence

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 26-Jan-2016

Regular readers will recall that I am no great fan of the default approach taken by so many CRM vendors, in which individual opportunity forecast probabilities are based on applying the same percentage to every opportunity that has reached a given stage in the sales process.

Many CRM users simply accept the default “out of the box” percentages without questioning them, or validating them against actual outcomes, or are confused about whether the % is measuring progress through the process or the probability of winning.

It’s no wonder that sales forecasts are often so wildly inaccurate. But there is a better way of thinking about this…

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The Buyer’s Journey: Why Change? > What To? > Why You?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 13-Jan-2016

It’s awfully hard for many sales people to resist the “itch to pitch” when they come across a prospect that seems a perfect fit for their solution. After all, why would they want to hold back? It turns out that there are many compelling reasons why rushing to present your solution is a really bad idea.

Closing a sale in one call might be possible in some transactional sales environments - in fact it may be the only economic way of dealing with low-value opportunities. But in complex, high-value buying decisions, the last thing most prospects are interested in at the start of their buying journey are the fine details or unique capabilities of your solution. Here’s why

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B2B Sales: are you compelling enough to close?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 7-Jan-2016

I’ve come to believe that it’s essential to separate B2B sales opportunities into two categories: in the first group (let’s call them inevitable purchases) the customer is invariably going to buy something within a fairly tightly defined timeframe. The critical questions are what, when and who from - but something is bound to happen.

The second group (let’s call them discretionary purchases) are far harder to predict and manage. It’s by no means inevitable that the customer will do anything. They could - and often do - end up sticking with the status quo. When sales people fail to distinguish the difference, they tend to plough ahead and try to sell their solution without recognising that the customer isn’t yet convinced they have a problem or that they need to solve it.

This can result in some disastrous misreading of the prospect’s true situation and intentions - and looking from the outside-in, I believe that this ought to be a critical development priority for a significant number of sales organisations…

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Complex Sales: the #1 rule when responding to RFPs

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 18-Nov-2015

DON'T RESPOND!

Unless, of course, you have played a significant role in shaping the prospect’s requirements and the timing and contents of the RFP comes as no surprise. Or if you’re unfortunate enough to be selling into a government department that is only allowed to buy that way*.

If you’re in a regular commercial complex b2b sales environment and the RFP arrives out of the blue, even if you can convince yourself that you could be in with a chance, it’s almost certain that you are simply column fodder, invited in to make up the numbers. The statistics are painful...

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B2B sales: which opportunities are REALLY likely to close in 2015?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 29-Oct-2015

It’s coming up to the end of October, and if you’re in high-value, long-decision-cycle, multiple-stakeholder enterprise sales, it means that you effectively have a month-and-a-half of selling time before everything starts to slow down or stop for the holiday season.

It’s important to avoid surprises: it turns out that there are a handful of critical opportunity criteria that your B2B sales people MUST pay attention to if they are going to have a real chance of closing deals this year, rather than have them slip into 2016…

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Never Mind the Sales Process - What About the Buyer’s Journey?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 27-Oct-2015

When organisations talk about their sales process, they are usually thinking in terms of a sequence of sales activities, typically encapsulated in a series of pipeline stages, which are designed to move a prospect from first contact to a successful sale. There’s overwhelming research to prove that having a formalised sales process has helped many organisations to improve sales performance.

But if my recent observations are anything to go by, many well-established sales processes seem to have something of a blind spot when it comes to two absolutely critical elements of successful B2B selling: what is the prospect doing and thinking at each point in their buying decision process, and what can we do to recognise where they are and facilitate their onward journey?

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The Keys to Successfully Implementing “The Challenger Sale”

Posted by Bob Apollo on Fri 9-Oct-2015

I attended the UK launch event for “The Challenger Customer” yesterday (you can read my review of the book here). One of the authors, Nick Toman, gave a quick-fire introduction to the fascinating research into B2B buying behaviour that led to the breakthrough thinking encapsulated in the book.

But just as interesting was the subsequent panel discussion featuring representatives from some of the UK’s largest and most respected corporations, describing the lessons they had learned from putting the principles behind the author’s previous book “The Challenger Sale” into practice.

Needless to say, their real-world experiences were very illuminating…

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Boldly Going in B2B Sales: Less Kirk, More Spock

Posted by Bob Apollo on Sat 3-Oct-2015

The traditional profile of a successful sales person isn’t a million light-years away from the personality of Captain James Tiberius Kirk - someone who has been variously described as “cunning, courageous and confident, and with a tendency to ignore regulations when he feels the end justifies the means”.

Apparently, the inspiration for Kirk’s character came from such diverse sources as Captain Horatio Hornblower, Shakespeare and Alexander the Great. So it’s no surprise that Kirk comes across as the all-action hero, capable of rescuing apparently fatal situations through exceptional acts of derring-do.

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Transforming your sales process to reflect modern buying behaviours

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 3-Sep-2015

There’s no doubt that B2B buying behaviours have changed dramatically over the past few years. If you’re selling a complex, high-value solution, then you’ll almost certainly having to deal with better-educated buyers who expect more from their interactions with sales people - and are often disappointed.

And it’s not just the fact that you’ve got to satisfy the demanding expectations of increasingly well-informed buyers - the number of stakeholders that have a significant say in B2B buying decisions has grown steadily. According to research by the CEB, an average of 5-6 stakeholders are actively involved in every decision process - and in complex, high-value deals, the number is often significantly higher.

Unfortunately, many sales organisations have failed to re-design their traditional sales attitudes and processes to reflect the new buying reality. Their attempts to drive out-dated sales thinking even harder in the hope of turning things around are simply depressing win rates even further.

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The problem with assigning fixed percentages to pipeline stages

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 2-Jul-2015

On average, fewer than 50% of forecasted opportunities close at the predicted value and time - and the figure is usually far worse in early stage companies without an established track record of successfully closing business.

Its no wonder that revenue forecast accuracy is a huge frustration for CEOs and a frequent source of tension with both their Board of Directors and their sales leadership. After all, how hard can it be to work out when an opportunity a sales person been pursuing for months is going to close?

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