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The Inflexion-Point Blog: VALUE SELLING STRATEGIES

Why are so many CRM implementations still failing?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 24-Jul-2019

According to many market analysts, the market for CRM solutions shows no signs of slowing down. It’s increasingly rare to find established sales organisations of any significant size without some form of CRM solution.

And yet when I talk to many sales leaders about the current state of their CRM implementation, the most consistent impression is one of promise unfulfilled.

They frequently acknowledge that key success metrics around data quality, sales team adoption and impact on revenue still have a great deal of room for improvement.

Of all the possible influences on success, enthusiastic sales force adoption is probably the most critical. So why is it so hard to persuade sales people of CRM’s potential to improve their own personal performance?

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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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Spotlight on Sandler

Posted by Bob Apollo on Fri 5-Jul-2019

I’ve been commissioned by the International Journal of Sales Transformation to write a series of articles comparing and contrasting today’s most popular sales methodologies, and I plan to share them with you as they are published.

In my first article I turn the spotlight onto Sandler Selling. Introduced by David Sandler in 1967 as an antidote to conventional product-centric, hard-selling tactics, the approach aims to achieve a more equitable balance of power between the buyer and the seller.

By emphasising rapport-building and empathy, and by focusing on the prospective customer’s pains, rather than the vendor’s solutions, Sandler’s methodology seeks to establish the foundation for honest dialogue between the buyer and the seller...

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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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Up-front agreements: the key to having productive customer conversations

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 18-Jun-2019

Business executives often report that they look back on the initial conversations they have with sales people and regard them as a frustrating waste of their time. Given this experience, it’s no wonder that it has become increasingly hard to persuade a potential prospect to invest time in talking with us.

And it’s not just the customers who are frustrated. When you analyse the actual outcomes of typical customer conversations, there are far too few genuine advances (in which the customer commits to take a tangible next step) and far too many “continuations” (in which both parties simply agree to keep talking and the sales person takes on any resulting actions).

These continuations can be addictive. We might not have been kicked out, but we haven’t moved forwards either. Once we get into a pattern of having agreeable but otherwise unproductive conversations it can be hard to kick the habit. In many cases, it would have been better for both parties to agree that there was little merit in continuing the discussion.

But we end up pursuing “opportunities” that are actually poorly-qualified lost causes. Their continued presence makes our pipeline look more impressive than it really is - which may offer some unjustified short-term comfort but simply defers the inevitable reckoning.

That’s why many top performing sales people have adopted the habit of using up-front agreements to establish mutual expectations at the start of every significant customer conversation...

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Stop striving for sales perfection!

Posted by Bob Apollo on Mon 10-Jun-2019

Given the inevitable complications and unique considerations involved in any complex sales environment, it’s hard to imagine that we could ever execute a completely “perfect” sale.

Unlike a typical manufacturing environment, which seeks to produce highly replicable solutions with standardised raw materials, rigidly defined process stages and accurately measurable quality inspection criteria, many aspects of a complex sale are unfortunately either unknowable or uncontrollable.

This is particularly true if we are selling to a new customer for the first time, or if our customer is making an unfamiliar purchase. The complexities are further amplified if there are multiple stakeholders involved in the decision-making process (as there almost inevitably are).

But if perfection is unattainable, what can we do to systematically improve outcomes? The answer lies in a simple concept: we must systematically identify and eliminate the avoidable sources of error that bedevil any complex sales environment...

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Podcast: The Art, Science + Engineering of Sales Management

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 23-May-2019

I recently recorded a wide-ranging conversation about the art, science and engineering of sales management with Michael Webb of Sales Performance Consultants Inc.

Michael was one of the first people to make the case for applying a data-driven, continuous performance improvement approach to sales and marketing, and is the author of the Shinto Prize winning "Sales Process Excellence".

We covered a number of topics in our podcast, including the difference between flexible sales frameworks and rigid sales processes, why buyers are going non-linear on us, why the act of planning is more important than the plan itself, why most "value added" sales strategies are nothing of the sort, and why most sales people are entirely justified in hating the CRM systems they are forced to use...

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Is your differentiation based on features or outcomes?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 17-Apr-2019

It’s a fundamental principle of value-based selling that whenever a prospective customer is unable to establish any meaningful difference between the options open to them, they are likely to choose what they perceive to be the cheapest or safest option.

If we are neither of these, our chances of winning their business are dramatically reduced, and so if we are determined to compete on value rather than price, we need to differentiate our offering in a way that is perceived to be significant by our potential customer.

Unfortunately, many technology-based businesses fall into the trap of believing that they need to take a “value-added” approach when positioning their products or services - but then do so in a way that is often irrelevant or unattractive to their prospects...

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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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Familiar vs. Unfamiliar Purchases

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 27-Mar-2019

Sales consultants often make the distinction between transactional and complex sales. Transactional sales - whatever their value - tend to have a relatively simple buying journey, are associated with lower decision risk, and involve fewer stakeholders. The decision is often regarded as tactical rather than strategic, the information required to support their decision is often straightforward and based on specification, price and delivery and the decision-making process itself is typically linear.

Complex sales, on the other hand, tend to be subject to a complicated and often non-linear buying journey, tend to have a higher decision risk, and involve a larger decision team. The decision is often regarded as strategic, the information on which decisions are based is usually complicated and sometimes contradictory, and there is a very real possibility that the potential customer may - after devoting significant effort to the exercise - simply decide to stick with the status quo.

But after observing a large number of complex sales environments, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is another significant factor at play - and that is whether the customer is involved in a familiar or unfamiliar purchase...

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