1. Your first move in a selling crisis

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      What is your best first (positive) move in a selling crisis? It’s easy to become overwhelmed. Many possible remedies. Limited time, resources, attention. Success in B2B selling relies on effective sales conversations. Why then does it make sense to require each rep to figure out and execute every critical sales conversation, on their own, without guidance? It is not a competency sales people are trained for. Truly effective value conversations are complex, require study, and considered design work. Even the best sales people need to know what critical conversations they can expect to encounter, and how to effectively execute them. You experience this now, when you don’t know if your problems are due to poor messages (what to say), poor delivery (how to say it), an unprepared rep, or inadequate support (content, experts, coaching, etc). What if there was a way to plan for and design critical sales conversations,...
  2. An experience using sales conversation frameworks

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      I was only four prospecting calls into my target list. I was calling to talk about sales performance issues. Then, I got this response from a sales manager I reached: “We don’t have any significant sales performance issues. We killed it last year.” Now, think about the ways your BDRs, direct, or partner reps would handled this situation. The many — different — ways. Fortunately, when I designed this conversation framework, I identified this as a potential scenario. I remember reflecting on and testing alternative approaches for different scenarios, over a couple of days. In this particular situation, I selected a question: “What possible constraints to hitting this year’s goals are you most concerned with?” Bingo! I got this: “Our reward for an outstanding year last year was significant increases in our quotas for this year. Last year most of my reps performed really well. But that doesn’t mean...
  3. Where to start when you experience B2B sales performance issues

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      If you are a B2B sales leader experiencing sales performance issues, with sales teams that must execute a complex, solution, or value sales model — what do you plan to do? These are some of the actions you might be taking, or considering: A performance improvement “initiative” – reps often refer to this as the “program of the moment” – messaging work, prospecting training, account strategy planning, sales coaching, etc. Re-organize – teams, managers, adjust sales resources Change sales tactics — specialty teams, named accounts, vertical teams, product specialists, changes to individual rep’s sales bag Re-work territories – add or remove accounts Make product and/or pricing changes Manipulate incentives – (will spiffs work as well for a complex, value sale, as they do in a high-volume transactional sale?) We hear sales reps comment on it this way, “every six months it’s the same drill, people run around asking ‘why isn’t this working?‘” When this...
  4. Three focused actions improve your B2B sales effectiveness

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      This article introduces the discovery of a simple and practical approach to improve B2B sales effectiveness. It is especially important for B2B selling organizations with, or trying to adopt, a value selling model. And it’s an approach few organizations have thought about.   The Sales Effectiveness Problem and Core Cause For B2B selling organizations, there is only one primary sales problem … … the inability to predictably, reliably and profitably hit your revenue (growth) number.  There are numerous causes. The cause that seems most pervasive, and not well addressed, is … … the inability to deliver effective knowledge, conversations, and information, in context, at scale.  These factors are each important and inter-related. But the core cause is ineffective sales conversations. Specifically, the inability to engage new prospects effectively, to speak with insight about the prospect’s business issues, and to create value through how you sell as much as with...
  5. Critical but misunderstood Challenger “B” sales conversations

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    Most sales reps who are trained in the CEB Challenger Sales model do a pretty good job with the “A” sales conversations. This is the first of what I call three distinct “sales” in the B2B complex or value sales process. In a complex or value sale, we first need to “close” the customer on the need to change, due to the real and urgent nature and cost of their current business state and problem.The Challenger Customer principle is to first address, or “break down,” the customer’s “mental model” of their business and problem. Their label for this the “A” stage of a sale. Challenger points out that most B2B sales reps proceed immediately to the “C” stage — how they solve the problem. CEB didn’t even bother putting “C” on their model. It comes automatically. We’re all so anxious to explain how we solve the business problem, and the value (proposition)...
  6. The Content Design Point is Different for Marketing and Sales Content

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        In Marketing and Sales Content — Differences That Matter I identified the problem that few people explicitly understand the difference between sales and marketing content. Does this really matter? During 20 years creating sales, marketing and training content for B2B organizations we discovered it really does. I believe this misunderstanding is a primary cause of poor or missing situation-specific sales information and content. This matters because the quality of sales information impacts B2B sales and marketing performance, as well as revenue growth. For companies pursuing account-based marketing tactics (ABM) I suggest success depends on information that is more like sales content than marketing content. The question addressed here is, “what can be done to improve sales content?” I will offer a prescription for what to do, based on adopting a different content design point, and how to do that. Consider for a moment the infamous marketing and sales...
  7. Sell, don’t market your way to success with new paradigm offers

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      B2B companies bringing new offers to market risk long delays in product or solution uptake. Too often this leads to direct failure. Failure rates range from 40% to 80%. Clearly a risky and expensive bet. This risk isn’t limited to startups. Often we see large companies struggle to gain traction with new offers or new markets. One senior executive told me, “we are buried in our core brand.” This isn’t about direct replacement offers. But for what analyst firm SiriusDecisions terms “new paradigm and new concept” solutions it is a significant challenge.   New Paradigm Offers Require a Different Go-to-market Strategy New paradigm solutions provide a different way to solve business problems than existing solution methods. Customers may not understand key underlying causes of their problems that are resolved by new solutions. Sellers could be addressing problems customers aren’t even aware of. Or, they may not even see their problems...
  8. A Conversation About B2B Selling Content

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      “What is the state of B2B selling content today?” That was the first question Barb Giamanco asked me on her sales podcast, Right Message, Right Support, Right Sales Content, on the Razor’s Edge. How would you answer that for your organization? How would you know? Is your selling content considered short life collateral, or mostly long-life assets? What criteria would you use to audit the quality and usefulness of your content? Do you have an inventory that would make an audit possible? These are some of the questions we discussed. Below is an outline of key points I addressed that you might want your organization to consider.   Key Considerations for Effective Selling Content If your sales team conducts a complex, solution or value sale, situation-specific selling information and content is essential for your success. If you are trying to shift your selling model from a traditional product-feature-benefit approach...
  9. The epidemic in B2B sales prospecting

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        Many B2B selling organizations hit a wall in their new customer acquisition and revenue growth rates. Sales pipeline quality, volume and conversion rates are both symptom and impact of this situation. This condition is especially evident in companies that are engaged in a complex or solution sale. Sometimes this is called a system or platform sale. The analyst firm SiriusDecisions calls it a “new paradigm” or “new concept” sale.  I and others use “value sale”. Even companies with a traditional, product selling model are not immune. Companies that experience stalled revenue growth may attempt to shift from traditional product selling, to a more consultative and comprehensive solutions or platform approach. Too often they bring their traditional selling mindset, process and skillset with them. The B2B sales prospecting epidemic is the result of a critical underlying cause most people are unaware of and do not fully appreciate even when they become aware.   An Example Companies that have had a...
  10. The B2B Value Sale is Actually Three Distinct Sales

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      Companies trying to execute a B2B solution or value sale must overcome selling problems that start at the prospecting stage and persist to the end. Symptoms include too few quality additions to the sales pipeline, protracted and lengthening sales cycles, and low win rates. A significant cause is sellers haven’t realigned messages, sales conversations, and sales process to the way buyers buy. This situation becomes more pronounced when selling to prospects who aren’t in an active buying process. We call this a “Find vs. Create Opportunity” situation. (See Find vs. Create Sales Opportunities) When I speak with B2B sales professionals they readily acknowledge there are not enough active buyers to meet quotas. In most organizations sales people tell me 80% of sales prospects have to be “created” as opportunities. But even with active buyers there are opportunities for B2B sales professionals to up their game. After all, they are often...
  11. Overlooked cause of low sales and marketing results

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      In this digital era, content is a primary driver of sales and marketing performance. We have written extensively on this. Background articles are referenced at the end of this article. Poor or missing content is an under-appreciated reason B2B selling organizations experience lower than projected new customer acquisition and revenue growth results. High selling costs are both a symptom and additional casualty. In addition to adverse business impact, companies experience content costs 30 to 50% higher than they should. Output from current content production methods are typically 20% what they could be. When we investigate the reasons for poor or missing content we find three reasons that frequently stand out. These are remarkable both because of their importance, and because they aren’t well understood or appreciated. 1. An ineffective or non-existing business level content strategy. Survey results from Content Marketing Institute indicate that an appalling 48% of respondents claim...
  12. Capture Sales “Situational Fluency” for Effective B2B Sales Coaching

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      In the B2B selling world there is near universal appreciation for the value of sales coaching. Research indicates significant impact on forecasted deal win rates, revenue growth and other selling metrics. Research from The Sales Management Association show sales people believe it’s the most important, least supported sales resource.     The constraints are equally clear. The big impediments are no surprise: lack of sales manager time, skills, and accountability.     We discovered a core cause of these constraints that makes the situation look even worse. It explains why, despite the universal acknowledgement of coaching importance, it isn’t being conducted regularly and effectively. This discovery made us appreciate the current approach to sales coaching will never be universally executed effectively and consistently. If it could, it would have. It’s simply too difficult. A new approach is needed. What Are We Coaching For? The top level objective of sales coaching is clear. We’re...
  13. Find vs Create Sales Opportunities

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      One of the early questions I ask prospective B2B clients is: “When you go-to-market through your marketing and sales functions, what percent of your target prospects are actively looking for what you’re selling, and what percent are unaware of their problem or your solution category, and so you have to create the opportunities?” I refer to this as “find vs. create opportunity selling.” Ever since I became aware of this distinction it has informed my thinking and approach to all B2B sales and marketing strategy and tactics. It provides a critical context. Most B2B leaders either are unaware of this idea, or don’t give it the consideration it deserves.   Find Opportunities “Find opportunities” are where prospects know they have a problem. They have a good understanding of the problem and it’s impact or cost on the business (reason to change). They understand generally what they need to solve...
  14. The Missing Ingredient for Sales Coaching

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      There is a generally high desire for sales coaching in B2B selling. Most managers and reps know it’s important. Done well, coaching can make a significant difference to rep and manager performance and success. Financially, everyone has a lot at stake. But sales coaching is seldom done. Consistently. Or well. Why is that? What’s missing? To be successful sales people need: Knowledge and information (including sales strategy and process), Skills and techniques, Conversations and messages These inputs enable sale people to know What to do, What to say, How to say it. We are among many who believe how you sell is a primary way to create value for prospective buyers, and to differentiate from competitors. Training programs provide the initial vehicles to “prepare sales for the fray” as one of my colleagues says. Training methods include information transfer, modeling best practices, and sales practice with feedback. Training prepares sales...
  15. B2B Sales Conversations — By Design

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    To paraphrase David Packard, sales conversations are too important to leave to sales people. B2B sales conversations for key touch points should be designed. This optimizes conversation effectiveness and simplifies selling. It provides a common baseline that makes feedback and continuous improvement possible. How have you designed the sales conversations for your key touch points? How well do each of your sales people handle conversations at key touch points, or with different stakeholders? How consistent is the delivery of your messages across your sales teams? How does stress affect these results? I’m talking about the conversations where, when they are performed well, you’re in the game. You’re gaining respect and trust that makes it possible for you to educate buyers and influence a buying vision and decision criteria. Poorly performed conversations mean you might not even get into consideration, or might just be pricing fodder. According to SiriusDecisions, 71% of sales...

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