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The Inflexion-Point Blog: VALUE SELLING STRATEGIES

How likely is your customer to take action?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Mon 8-Jul-2019

One of the most significant mistakes any sales person can make is to assume that their prospective customer is inevitably going to buy something, and that the only remaining questions are what, when, and who from.

Some purchases are admittedly inevitable - for example when an organisation needs to guarantee a source of raw materials for an essential process. But the vast majority of business purchases are discretionary in some way or another.

It’s no wonder that - according to a wide range of research - the most common outcome of a potential B2B buying exercise is actually a decision to “do nothing” and to stick with the status quo.

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How does your CRM manage different opportunity types?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 2-Jul-2019

[This article was updated on 9-Jul-2019 to include the renewal opportunity type]

Why do so many CRM implementations behave as if every sales opportunity was created equal? If your organisation is involved in B2B or transactional B2C sales, a “one size fits all” approach might possibly work.

But if you are involved in complex B2B sales, and if you are selling to a mixture of new business and existing customers, you’ll almost certainly have a variety of different opportunity types.

These opportunity types will inevitably have different critical success factors, different degrees of difficulty, different average sales cycles, different average win rates and so on.

And if your opportunity management strategies fail to reflect these differences, coming up with accurate forecasts will be nigh-on impossible...

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Hope is not a strategy - and ignorance is no excuse

Posted by Bob Apollo on Mon 15-Apr-2019

Why do apparently promising sales opportunities go wrong so often? Why do close dates speed past, get reset and then repeat the cycle? Why do so many sales forecasts bear so little relationship to reality?

Rick Page, founder of The Complex Sale offered sound advice in the title of his deservedly best-selling book: “hope is not a strategy”.

To which I’m inclined to add “and ignorance is no excuse”.

Page was right. Hope is not, and can never be, an effective strategy. The word should have no place in our sales vocabulary. But I’ll wager that the H-word is still being used every day in countless conversations between sales people and their managers.

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Sales Opportunity Qualification or Qualifiction?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 4-Apr-2019

Accurate opportunity qualification is perhaps the single most important foundation for success in complex B2B sales environments. In the absence of an up-to-date and accurate assessment of the specific circumstances of each of their active sales opportunities, sales people are doomed to waste significant amounts of time and energy pursuing deals that they are never likely to win, or are never likely to do anything, or would not be worth winning.

As a consequence, many sales organisations have attempted to implement a standardised approach to qualification. But creating qualification guidelines by itself isn’t enough. The criteria must be consistently, thoughtfully and honestly applied, and not regarded as a “box-ticking” exercise.

An inadvertent typo (“qualifiction”) in a recent client opportunity review session served to remind me that qualification must always be based on fact and not on fiction or - as seemed to be the case on that occasion - on comfortable but unjustified assumptions.

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A Progressive Approach to Sales Opportunity Qualification [that isn't BANT]

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 21-Mar-2019

Like a growing number of other commentators, I have come to believe that the traditional BANT (Budget, Authority, Need and Timeframe) approach to sales opportunity qualification is fundamentally flawed and not fit for purpose when it comes to complex B2B sales.

The fact that over 40% of purchasing projects are ad-hoc rather than formally budgeted is, as I argued in a recent blog, yet another nail in the coffin of this outmoded and discredited methodology. But if not BANT, what can you use instead?

Any alternative approach has to take into account the fundamentally non-linear nature of B2B buying decisions, particularly when they relate to solving a new and unfamiliar problem (as opposed to repeat purchases of well-known commodities).

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If you really want to shorten your sales cycle, slow down!

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 20-Feb-2019

If the conversations I’ve been having with sales leaders recently are anything to go by, our sales pipelines are full of opportunities that start off looking like they are going to end up in a quick sale, but then get stuck somewhere in the middle (or towards the end) of the process.

And if my observations accurately reflect the underlying reason, then it’s worth us reining in our sales people’s natural enthusiasm and helping them to recognise that they will be more effective in shortening their sales cycle by slowing down their initial interaction with the customer.

It’s a subject I’ve referred to before, but it’s worth returning to again. If our customer acknowledges a need that we know we can address, it’s a natural (but wrong) reaction for a sales person to want to explain how they have a “solution” for their customer’s problem.

This tendency to premature elaboration (and the associated temptation to demonstrate and propose our solution as soon as we can) may initially give the impression that the sales cycle is moving forwards, but it all-too-often simply stores up avoidable future delays...

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Is your sales pipeline full of fatbergs?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Fri 11-Jan-2019

The sewer systems of of our towns and cities are struggling to cope with a phenomenon known as the “fatberg”. These fatbergs are formed by an unappetising combination of oil, grease, food waste and other materials that have no place in the system.

Unfortunately, as these fatbergs harden and grow, they cause obstructions that require specialist equipment to remove. The problem is largely avoidable, it’s obviously a pretty unappetising story, and you may wonder why I’m sharing it with you.

Something very similar is going on in many sales pipelines. They are clogged with so-called opportunities that haven’t moved for ages and are unlikely to close any time soon. And the longer you delay clearing them out, the harder it gets to remove them...

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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...

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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.

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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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