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The Outcome-Centric Selling Blog

Coaching - the critical sales management skill?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 11-Jan-2022

This article was first published in the latest edition (issue 8.1 - January 2022) of the International Journal of Sales Transformation. To learn more about this excellent publication, follow the link at the bottom of this article.

Successful sales managers must master a range of important skills. They need to make sure that they recruit the right people and help them to realise their potential, encourage their teams to follow and contribute to the organisation’s learned best practices, ensure that opportunities are well-qualified, that pipelines are well managed and that forecasts are consistently accurate. I’m sure you can think of more.

But perhaps the overriding skill - if sales managers are to get the very best out of every member of their sales organisation - is their ability to coach, and their willingness to commit the amount of time required in the coaching process. I addressed some of these concepts in an earlier article “Establishing the Foundations of a Coaching Culture” in issue 7.3 of the journal, and I now want to expand on some of the themes introduced there.

In particular, I want to focus on three areas:

  • Devoting the appropriate amount of time to coaching
  • Acquiring the skills necessary to be an effective coach
  • Developing the mindset needed to be an effective coach
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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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Supercharging our sales conversations

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 27-Apr-2021

This article first appeared in the April 2021 "Supercharging Sales" issue of the International Journal of Sales Transformation.

Given the overall theme of the magazine, I thought it might be appropriate to focus on a topic that has long been a focus of mine - how can salespeople supercharge their sales conversations?

Given that - according to research by Forrester and others - customers report that the majority of conversations they have with potential vendors create little-to-no positive value (and often leave them with a negative impression), there is clear scope to have more impactful interactions.

By the way, the one thing we want to avoid when “supercharging” our sales conversations is to talk more quickly. All of the available evidence shows that top performing salespeople speak slowly, clearly and confidently and take their time to make their points without being verbose....

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The key issues for B2B sales leaders in 2021

Posted by Bob Apollo on Fri 26-Feb-2021

I was very pleased to be invited by the International Journal of Sales Transformation to contribute an article to their latest edition. The publication is a consistently valuable read for any sales professional, and I urge you to subscribe (I've included a link to their website at the bottom of this piece).

I chose to write about some of the key issues I see facing B2B sales leaders in 2021. I hope you find my observations both relevant and helpful... 

2020 proved to be a challenging year for many B2B sales organisations. Certain sectors powered ahead - for example, anything associated with e-commerce or digital transformation - but many other industries suffered significant declines in demand.

2021 will inevitably bring further challenges. Whilst the emergence of effective vaccines offers some hope for recovery, it would be unwise to assume that these will amount to a magic bullet, or that many sectors will enjoy a rapid return to pre-Covid “normality”.

One thing is certain - the future of B2B selling is not what it used to be. This poses both a threat and an opportunity: those that emerge as winners will need to demonstrate speed, agility and adaptability at both the individual and organisational level.

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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.

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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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The many dimensions of diversity in B2B sales

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 15-Mar-2018

If - as many scale-ups are - you are on a mission to challenge the status quo and get your prospective customers to think differently about their critical business issues, you would be wise to ensure that you are accommodating diverse perspectives and experiences within your own organisation.

I’m not talking about the conventional demographic dimensions of diversity - of age, sex, race, religion or the like - but about encouraging diversity in the way your teams think about the issues, challenges and opportunities that your organisation is facing both now and in the future.

The world in which we are competing is changing far too fast for organisations to embrace a Taylorist “One Best Way” approach that assumes that rigid thinking or standardised processes are capable of delivering anything close to an optimal outcome.

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We need to collectively develop sales competencies!

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 4-Jan-2018

I’m not sure that what you might describe as the “traditional” approach to sales skills development - sending sales people on an occasional formal sales training course based on one of the many off-the-shelf methodologies - has ever delivered consistent results in terms of driving sustained performance improvement.

And that was in yesterday’s relatively static marketplaces! In today’s fast changing business environment, sales competencies require continuous honing and development. Simply repeating what worked a few short years (or even months) ago no longer guarantees future success. This has a number of significant implications.

First, skills development programmes themselves have had to become more agile - evolving to more of an on-demand, self-paced, customised-to-the-individual approach. There’s still an important role for team-based training, but bringing sales people together in a room once a year (or less) isn’t going to satisfy these new needs.

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Filling the Value Vacuum

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 23-May-2017

The precise proportions vary a little depending on what researcher you listen to, but the general conclusion is remarkably consistent: the majority of meetings with sales people generate little meaningful value for the potential customer. They often turn out to be a complete waste of their time.

A big part of the explanation can be found in studies that conclude that customers value business expertise four times more highly than product knowledge but that the average sales person is four times more comfortable discussing product details than having a business issue focused conversation.

Given this imbalance, perhaps it’s no wonder that it has become so difficult to persuade a prospect to accept an initial phone call or a meeting, or to get them to agree to advance beyond the initial stages of a sales interaction. They simply don’t see the value in spending any more of their precious time...

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