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The Outcome-Centric Selling Blog

Gartner: Building a high-performing sales team is now harder than ever!

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 22-Nov-2022

Gartner’s latest guidance for Chief Sales Officers [Leadership Vision 2023: 3 strategic actions for success] contains a conclusion that I believe every sales leader will recognize: retaining and building a high-performing sales team is harder than ever.

The challenging economic climate and the increasing expectations of B2B buyers means that mediocre salespeople who lack the necessary attitudes, behaviors and competencies will struggle even more than they might previously have done to win business.

Gartner’s research shows that hiring is taking longer, retaining talent is becoming harder, and new hires are more expensive. They have found that achieving a 10% sales headcount growth often requires 37% new-to-role sellers. In this challenging climate, I believe that great sales organizations will become stronger and weak sales organizations will become weaker, and the gap between these two groups will widen.

No sales leader or CEO wants to be trapped on the weaker side of this growing divide...

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B2B Buyers: from Fear of Missing Out to Fear of Messing Up

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 9-Nov-2022

As Matt Dixon (of Challenger Sale and Challenger Customer fame) points out in his latest book “The Jolt Effect”, B2B salespeople have been preconditioned by most of the established sales methodologies to focus on cultivating their customer’s fear of missing out (FOMO).

The fear of missing out is, of course, particularly significant in discretionary purchases where the prospective customer doesn’t have to buy and believes they could potentially get along just fine by continuing on their current path and doing nothing.

When it comes to discretionary purchases, it is well established that the salesperson has to manage two sales in parallel: the first “sell” involves persuading the customer that they need to change rather than stick with the status quo and the second “sell” involves convincing the customer that the vendor’s approach represents the prospective customer’s best available option.

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Top sellers are storytellers

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 12-Oct-2022

This article first appeared in the October 2022 edition of the International Journal of Sales Transformation, and is reproduced with their permission. The theme of this edition of the IJoST focuses on a topic that is very close to my heart - the critical importance of storytelling in B2B selling:

As human beings, we have evolved over the generations to use stories to communicate - and one of the key factors that now sets today’s most effective salespeople apart from the rest is their ability to share compelling, relevant anecdotes (typically the experiences of other existing customers) that resonate with their prospective customers, stimulate them to think differently, and cause them to take action.

Storytelling is an ancient art, dating back to the dawn of language - and the three core rhetorical skills that underpin compelling and persuasive storytelling can be traced back to Aristotle: ethos (the credibility of the storyteller), pathos (the ability to appeal to one’s audience), and logos (the ability to support one’s assertions through evidence).

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Answering every new customer's 4 key questions

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 29-Jun-2022

If your prospective customer is seriously evaluating a new project that involves both a significant investment and a change to their existing approach or environment, it is close-to-inevitable that they will be seeking clear answers to 4 key questions (and a clear consensus across all key members of their decision-making and approval stakeholder groups) before they will be prepared to make a commitment:

  1. WHY do they need to CHANGE (rather than stay on their current path)?
  2. WHY should they choose YOU (rather than any other option)?
  3. WHY do they need to act NOW (rather than later)?
  4. WHY should they APPROVE this project (rather than a competing investment - who will benefit, and how)?

If there is any uncertainty, ambiguity, lack of substance or doubt about any of the answers, your prospective customer is likely (at best) to delay their decision until things have been resolved, or to abandon their project and stick with the status quo (statistically the most common outcome).

That's why it is so important that salespeople follow a process that ensures that all of these elements are covered in their sales conversations and captured in their proposal to the customer - and it's why we've updated our "why commit" value story framework...

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How can anyone sell value without values?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Fri 17-Jun-2022

I recently participated in a webinar with LeveragePoint on the subject of “establishing a value-centric culture in your B2B sales organisation”. It’s a topic I care deeply about, and I’ve included a link to both the recording and the deck at the bottom of this article.

I thought you might find it worthwhile if I summarise some of my conclusions, and to try to explain why I believe that we cannot successfully claim to “sell value” without demonstrating the necessary values...

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The changing face of value in B2B sales

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 24-May-2022

It's been a while since my last blog, but I'm pleased to be returning to the action with an article that I wrote for the current issue of the International Journal of Sales Transformation, which I think you'll appreciate.

It leads to the conclusion - which I suspect will come as no surprise to regular readers - that we need to stop talking about the "value" of our so-called "solutions" and start focusing on the value of our customer's outcomes...

It seems as if the phrase “sell on value, not on price” must have been around since shortly after the dawn of B2B selling, and it would be hard to argue with the sentiment. But what do we actually mean by value - and perhaps more important, how do our customers perceive value?

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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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The What, Why and How of Outcome-Centric Selling®

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 16-Dec-2021

I believe that it would be hard to argue that B2B selling hasn't changed significantly in recent times - and equally hard to deny that it will inevitably continue to evolve.

The reason, of course, is that B2B buying behaviour - particularly when it comes to significant, complicated buying decisions - is also changing significantly, not least in terms of the number of stakeholders involved in the decision and approval processes.

In my latest on-demand webinar, I identify four key trends that are shaping our environment and fuelling the movement towards outcome-centric selling. I hope that you'll find the conclusions relevant to what you're seeking to achieve in your own sales organisation...

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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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Why a generic “unique selling proposition” isn’t enough...

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 23-Nov-2021

Marketers are keen to create what they refer to as “unique selling propositions”. According to Wikipedia, a unique selling proposition (USP) - also sometimes called unique value proposition (UVP) refers to “the unique benefit exhibited by a company, service, product, or brand that enables it to stand out from competitors”. This USP/UVP is then communicated in marketing messages and materials and reflected in sales tools

Now, whilst this concept might be sufficient to drive many B2C (business-to-consumer) purchases, and maybe a few simple B2B (business-to-business) transactional sales, the complex nature of most high-value B2B sales makes it an entirely inadequate and incomplete way of establishing genuine and relevant value.

In complex B2B buying journeys - which nowadays frequently involve double-digit numbers of actively engaged stakeholders - the idea that the same single generic unique selling proposition that is trotted out to every other potential customer is going to persuade a wide range of different decision-making and approval groups is an obvious nonsense.

And whilst a generic value proposition might be enough to attract the prospective customer’s initial attention, every qualified prospect deserves and needs their own unique value story - and if you are to earn their support, every stakeholder must recognise the benefits that your proposal will bring to them and the function they represent.

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