Helping your customer make sense of complexity

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 3-Sep-2019

Making a buying decision has never been more complicated. Your customers have access to an overwhelming amount of information - often inconsistent, and frequently false or incomplete. They seek consensus when making buying decisions - but have to somehow align a growing number of stakeholders with often conflicting priorities.

And they have to navigate an increasingly complex and non-linear buying journey that often twists and turns and is as capable of going sideways or backwards as it is going forwards in response to new information, new circumstances or the involvement of new members of the decision group.

Faced with this complexity, we shouldn’t be surprised that sales cycles are lengthening, that win rates are declining or that the most common outcome of even an apparently well qualified sales opportunity is for the customer to decide that their easiest path is to simply stick with the status quo, after all...

Read More

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.

Read More

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...

Read More

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...

Read More

Video: 3 Key Sales Questions Every CEO Should be Able to Answer

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 27-Jun-2019

George Brontén of Membrain is one of the smartest people I know when it comes to the latest trends affecting complex B2B sales. His team have developed a next-generation approach to CRM that tackles the challenges and constraints that are causing more than 50% of B2B sales people to miss their quota targets.

Read More

Video: Key Challenges Facing B2B Sales People

Posted by Bob Apollo on Tue 25-Jun-2019

I had the chance to work with The Marketing Practice at a recent event at Worcester College Oxford and one of the by-products was the opportunity to make a short video highlighting a few of the many challenges facing today's B2B sales people.

We covered widely-recognised issues such as longer sales cycles, increased price competition, and why so many deals end in "no decision".

We also touched on changes in the buying process, the involvement of multiple stakeholders, and the rise of the consensus buying decision.

We also highlighted a few of the available remedies - such as the need to reinforce the need for change before we sell the benefits of our solution, and the importance of identifying the structural and behavioural characteristics of our Ideal Customers.

It's short (less than 3 minutes) but to the point. You can watch the video by clicking on the link below...

Read More

Podcast: The Foundations of Sales Effectiveness

Posted by Bob Apollo on Thu 20-Jun-2019

I recently recorded a second wide-ranging podcast on the foundations of sales effectiveness with Michael Webb of Sales Performance Consultants Inc.

We continued to develop the topics we had discussed in our initial podcast, and this time we turned our attention to the need to find ways of eliminating the avoidable errors that so often prevent sales people from achieving their full potential.

Inevitably, we turned to the structural and cultural foundations of successful sales organisations - and the reasons why (despite the huge sums of money invested) so many CRM implementations fail to deliver the hoped-for improvements in performance.

We also discussed some of the basic foundations of any scalable sales "process" - including the critical importance of recognising the common characteristics of our ideal customers. I hope you enjoy listening to our discussion...

Read More

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...

Read More

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...

Read More

What is your Customer’s Minimum Viable Problem?

Posted by Bob Apollo on Wed 29-May-2019

The concept of a Minimum Viable Product is common in the start-up community. It is normally regarded as an initial release of a product that has just enough features to satisfy early adopter customers and provide feedback for future product development.

The concept has parallels in the case of your customer’s Minimum Viable Problem. This is a business issue, opportunity or threat that is significant enough to justify action, but manageable enough to allow a straightforward buying decision.

This is a particularly critical concept for many B2B sales organisations who are faced with opportunities that initially appear to have momentum, but which subsequently fail to convert because of one of two important reasons...

Read More