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The Outcome-Centric Selling Blog

Getting the right people on your sales bus

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 13-Feb-2020

In his widely acclaimed Good to Great, Jim Collins shows that lastingly great organisations pay particular attention to not only getting the “right people on the bus”, but also making sure they are in the right seats (= roles) - as well as taking proactive action to get the wrong people off the bus.

This principle - relevant right the way across every organisation - is particularly critical when it comes to the sales function. Sales leaders simply cannot afford to recruit the wrong people, to put people into roles that fail to align with their talents, or to retain people who are either never likely to perform or who might only achieve their goals at the cost of compromising the culture of the organisation.

The potential cost of failure is amplified in any sales role. It’s not just about the cost of hiring or the subsequent wasted renumeration - far more significant is the opportunity cost associated with lost revenue, missed targets, unhappy customers and tarnished reputation.

CVs and claims of past performance are often deceptive. Hiring on the basis of past experience alone rarely guarantees future success. Even inept salespeople can come across well at interview. What can sales leaders do to ensure they end up with a bus full of positive role models?

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Size isn’t everything: why more revenue often flows from smaller pipelines

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 14-Feb-2017

One of the abiding urban myths that misinforms sales pipeline management is the idea that sales people need at least 3* pipeline coverage in order to achieve their quota. Where this “golden number” came from, nobody seems to know, but it’s a fair bet that it dates back beyond the Neolithic.

Another widespread urban myth is the idea that whenever you have a bigger sales pipeline, you end up selling more. It’s the sort of misconception that leads marketing teams to drive to create an ever-larger number of MQLs without any regard for how many of them ever actually result in any revenue.

The simple fact is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of what the optimum coverage ratio for any specific sales pipeline is…

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Bridging the sales performance gap

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 28-Sep-2016

In the majority of sales organisations, a high percentage of sales revenue is generated by the same minority of top sales performers, quarter after quarter. According to research published by the CEB in “The Challenger Sale”, this performance gap between top sales people and the rest is amplified in complex, high value sales environments.

They found that in a transactional selling environment, the performance gap between average and star performers was 59 percent - but in complex sales environments the gap was almost 200 percent - more than three times as wide. It’s clear that even a modest narrowing of this gap could drive a dramatic improvement in revenue.

The natural response from many sales leaders who are faced with this situation is to resolve to hire smarter next time, or to invest in sales training - but neither strategy seems to have a particularly good track record. When it comes to recruitment, it seems that there simply aren’t enough natural high performers to go around...

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McKinsey, HBR: How much support do your sales people need?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 31-May-2016

There is some fascinating research just published in the Harvard Business Review by a group of McKinsey consultants. They sought an evidence-based approach to optimising the balance between front line sales people and sales support roles - and their conclusions may surprise you.

It’s an important question because having the appropriate level and type of back office support is critical to maximising the productivity and effectiveness of your quota-carrying sales people. But - unfortunately - it’s a balancing act that many organisations seem to struggle to get right…

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Learn from the Best, Move the Middle, Recycle the Rest (and Hire Smarter)

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 4-Nov-2015

According to Sales Benchmark Index, across the industry as a whole, 83% of sales revenues are generated by only 13% of the sales population. And even if the asymmetry within your own sales organisation is less pronounced, it’s a reasonably safe assumption that there is some sort of significant imbalance between the best and the rest. 

Now, some element of this can be explained by the time taken to ramp up new hires. But the larger part of the explanation is likely to come from a combination of hiring people who were never likely to make the grade in the first place, an inability to fully realise the potential of your otherwise-competent sales hires, and a failure to learn all you could from the winning habits of your top sales performers.

In short, if sales organisations are to bridge this sales performance gap, they need learn from the best, move the middle, accelerate the inevitable - and hire smarter.

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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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Why you don’t need any sales stages in your sales pipeline

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 4-Jun-2015

The above assertion might appear counter-intuitive, but please bear with me. I’m going to try and make the case that you don’t need - and in fact you shouldn’t have - any sales stages in your sales pipeline.

I’m not arguing that you don’t need a sales pipeline. Far from it. The universe would probably grind to a halt if every sales organisation decided to abandon their pipeline. I’m just convinced that there’s a far better way of managing it than by using sales stages.

The alternative? It’s to value your pipeline and measure your progress with reference to the stage your prospects are at in their buying decision process. In other words, you don’t need sales stages - you need buying stages

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Why 100*1% is infinitely more valuable than 1*100%

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 19-Nov-2014

The numerically gifted amongst you might be scratching your heads at this point. At face value, one hundred times one percent adds up to exactly the same as one times one hundred percent. And from a purely mathematical perspective, of course, you’re right…

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