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The Inflexion-Point Blog: VALUE SELLING STRATEGIES

Responding to, Reframing or Creating Sales Opportunities?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 16-Aug-2018

Jim Burns of Avitage drew the distinction between finding versus creating sales opportunities in an article on LinkedIn a couple of years back (I’ve included a link to his article below) and I’d like to offer some additional perspectives on an issue that sometimes isn’t given the attention it deserves.

How we deal with a sales opportunity depends the nature of the sales opportunity, how we uncovered the opportunity and how we choose to react to the opportunity.

We have three basic options: to respond to what the customer already believes they need, to attempt to reframe the customer’s thinking about a current need, or to create a fresh opportunity where none existed before.

As you can appreciate, our sales strategies need to vary very considerably between these three situations...

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Avoiding the curse of premature elaboration

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 14-Aug-2018

Apparently, someone once offered a definition for the split second as “the time between a customer giving the merest hint that they might have a need and the sales person rushing to pitch their solution”.

It’s a common problem, and I must credit Mike Bosworth (author of Solution Selling) for being the first person to have the wit and creativity to so memorably describe the condition as “premature elaboration”.

It’s a starkly suggestive phrase, an unfortunately common ailment, and a terribly ineffective way of selling - particularly in complex B2B sales environments where doing a rushed job of discovery can have all manner of negative consequences for the subsequent sales cycle...

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B2B sales: six steps to value

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 19-Jul-2018

One of the biggest frustrations for today’s sales leaders is their sales peoples’ apparent inability to connect the business value of their solutions with the business issues of their prospective customers. It’s not a new phenomenon - we’ve been wrestling with it for years.

We can find an explanation in research reported by Corporate Visions that the average business executive is at least 4 times more interested by business insights than by product features whilst the average sales person is 4 times more confident talking about their offerings than about their customer’s business challenges.

The problem is amplified by the average sales person’s habit of pitching their solution the moment the customer acknowledges a need, rather than continuing to learn about the problem and its implications. Top performers know better. So how does their behaviour differ?

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B2B sales: what should we be measuring?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 17-Jul-2018

If we’re in sales, there are two obvious monetary measures of our success: revenue and margin. Revenue is particularly important for organisations that are primarily concerned with driving top line growth. Margin is particularly important for organisations that are primarily focused on growing a profitable bottom line.

The relative importance of these two metrics can vary according to what type of business and what stage of development we are in, but I can’t recall coming across a B2B sales organisation that hasn’t defined one or the other (or both) as their primary success metric.

But what else should we be measuring?

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Why our sales discovery process must always be two-way

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 13-Jun-2018

I’ve written before about the critical importance of the discovery process in complex B2B sales. It’s a favourite subject, and with good reason - in my experience the quality of initial discovery is a vital predictor of subsequent sales success.

But it’s critically important that the discovery exercise doesn't just involve us asking the prospective customer a series of questions that are primarily aimed at helping us to qualify the account, the contact and the opportunity.

If discovery is seen by our prospect as only being for our benefit, it’s all-too-easy for these discussions to descend into a relentlessly one-directional “20-Questions” process that can easily discourage our potential customer from continuing the conversation.

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Why your salespeople should never do product demonstrations

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 7-Jun-2018

I imagine we’ve all sat through at least one of these at some stage of our careers: a software demonstration that is nothing more or less than a relentless and apparently never-ending stream of product features thrown out at the audience in the misguided hope that at least some of them might prove relevant or attractive.

It’s a horrible and unproductive tactic: assuming that our prospective customer hasn’t already zoned out, it places responsibility on them to imagine whether this or that widget might have any relevance to something that is important to them.

This seems to be a particular problem for technically-orientated demonstrators: they are often so proud of how clever their product is that they can’t resist introducing yet another feature of function. There’s no story, no coherence, and no respect for the audience.

Yes, demonstrations - at the right time, and in the right context - can be a vital element of a successful sales cycle. I just believe that there’s a much better way of achieving this than doing a conventional product demonstration...

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How do you create value for your customers?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 29-May-2018

With relatively few exceptions, most companies want to be seen to be focused on value, rather than price. You can understand why: in most markets there is only space for one or at most a very few “cost leaders”.

You can see the trend reflected in the number of organisations that claim to have a “value added” strategy. But these positions are often adopted without any clear understanding of how they actually create genuine value for their customers.

More often, their “value added” claims are really intended to justify why they are entitled to charge a premium for extended feature sets and capabilities, most of which only a minority of customers actually end up using.

The rest are left feeling that they are probably being asked to overpay for things that they don’t actually need...

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Is your thought leadership really “thought followership”?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 19-Apr-2018

It seems as if everybody wants to be a thought leader nowadays, and to publish insights that are going to somehow miraculously transform market perceptions and make the sales process easier.

A growing share of marketing budgets is being directed towards this goal and being used to create, publish and share white papers, executive briefings, blog articles, events, podcasts, videos, webinars and the like.

But there’s a problem: if (as I believe it should be) the primary purpose of these “thought leadership” investments is to cause the consumer of the information to think differently, the vast majority of this investment is utterly wasted.

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Are your sales people suffering from value vagueness?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 20-Mar-2018

Whether they are involved in winning new business or seeking to retain or expand existing business relationships, one of the key things that every member of your sales organisation needs to understand is how they establish unique value for each existing or prospective customer.

In the case of new business, this is about the future value that your prospective customer believes they will derive from implementing your solution. In the case of existing business, it is about the actual business value they have already derived from using your solution.

This is nothing to do with having superior features or functions: it is about the superior business outcomes that your solutions enable your customers to achieve. You’d hope that understanding this would be baked into the DNA of any competent B2B sales person.

But all-too-often, when I ask sales people how they create tangible business value for their customers, their answers turn out to be disturbingly vague…

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Are your sales people leading with gain or pain?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 20-Feb-2018

Most B2B-focused sales people have been taught that it’s more effective to promote the projected “benefits” of their solution than to subject their prospects to a tediously detailed presentation of the features of their product or service.

There’s a natural tendency to want to emphasise the upside - to seek to persuade the prospect of the positive consequences of a decision to implement their solution. But this focus on potential gain runs the risk of ignoring some of the most important elements of B2B buying psychology.

B2B customers are only too well aware that any change involves risk, and that the management of change is a difficult and complicated mission. Faced with potentially risky decisions, they often default to sticking with the status quo - even if choosing to change could bring the possibility of future benefits.

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