1. Sell into the “hidden opportunity market”

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    We used to say, “sell ahead of the RFP.” Then, for more than a decade we’ve been telling clients, “sell ahead of your competitive herd.” Now we’re telling them, “sell into the ‘hidden opportunity market’.” As a result of recent client work, I’ve re-examined CEB’s Challenger Customer for clues on how to improve B2B sales practices, especially for sales content. I’ve re-read Challenger Customer in detail at least 5 times. Each time I get a deeper appreciation for the insights their research provides. And how elusive these insights and their implications can be for sales professionals. (See Unpacking Challenger Customer Insights.) “Customers are typically 37 percent of the way through a purchase decision when group conflict peaks – and in some cases this stalls or, worse, kills the deal all together. On top of that, those customers don’t meaningfully engage suppliers’ sales reps until they are, on average, 57 percent of...
  2. Challenger Customer Implications for B2B Sales Professionals

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      Most sales executives I’ve asked about their view on CEB’s book Challenger Customer have completely missed the value for their sales program. “Oh yeah, I read Challenger Sale a couple of years ago, good book.” In our view, Challenger Customer is a must read for sales leaders who are trying to execute a “value selling” sales model, or to shift from their transactional, product selling model. Challenger Sale introduced concepts about what B2B sellers should do. But few recommendations were really actionable by most sales leaders and their teams. Challenger Customer provides the roadmap, AND the accelerant. The book presents the results of extensive research. They looked at what the best B2B sales people have actually been doing. They explain simply, and show graphically, the results achieved compared to average and poor sales performers. But sales behavior change and results will not be realized simply by having sales teams...
  3. The most underserved content requirements

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      I received a call from a colleague who started a new sales job with a software company. “We have no good content to serve as door openers, or to nurture target accounts who aren’t ready to meet. All we have is product collateral.” Sales content for key sales engagement points are the most underserved content requirements in most B2B organizations. Little or poor prospecting is both a symptom and casualty of this reality. There are many important reasons for this (please don’t shoot the messenger, not all may apply in your organization): Marketers don’t know what sales people need. Sales managers and reps actually don’t know what they need either, until the situation occurs and they can’t find it! Marketers don’t package and deploy content to sales that marketing may be using for lead gen and nurturing. Sales doesn’t know how to requisition content from non-sales resources who need...
  4. A glaring omission in B2B selling systems

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      Two top B2B sales problems are: Low output, measured as new customers acquired, revenue growth, margin, and product mix High selling costs measured as productivity, efficiency, revenue yield per rep, sales cycle time We’ll use one important cause of these top sales problems — low sales prospecting effectiveness — to focus our main point. Poor prospecting is an inability to create enough good opportunities, with the right prospects, quickly enough. It “shows up” as an inability to get enough first and second conversations with new prospects. This is a decades long, universal problem. It continues to get worse, despite communication and technology breakthroughs. Why is this? What’s missing? This is a complex problem. But does it have to be complicated? Complicated is often due to lack of clarity about key requirements. So this prompted us to developed a list of the primary requirements for B2B sales prospecting success. Primary...
  5. Why You Need a B2B Sales Information and Content Strategy

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      If you sell the way you did 10 years ago, you don’t need a sales content strategy. There’s little strategy required to tell people about your company, products, features — just don’t forget those benefit statements! But if you’ve truly adopted a customer-centered sales philosophy you know you have new requirements. The new realities of selling to self-educating, digital era buyers has made having the right information an essential tool for sales professionals. The right content addresses every key buyer decision point throughout the customer engagement process. The importance and complexity of this requirement demands a strategy.   Sales people need content to sell In B2B sales, especially a complex, considered or value sale, sales people still generate most of their sales “leads.” They develop virtually all sales opportunities. As it is for marketers, content is essential to capture prospect attention and generate interest. For sales people, tracking prospect content consumption indicates...
  6. 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...
  7. B2B Sales Information and Content Strategy

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        When it comes to content and strategy, few people share a clear and common meaning of each word. Put them together, and what you have is downright perplexing. This is a sales content strategy guide for the perplexed. It is for people in marketing and sales who must collaborate to get these strategic assets right. (See Content is a Strategic Imperative for B2B Selling Organizations) The linked articles below are integral to a complete understanding of how to develop, document and execute an effective sales content strategy. First, a few definitions. Content For this article we are talking about sales content. More specifically, we’ll focus on B2B sales that are defined as complex, considered or value sales. “Content” includes sales messages, conversations, and stories which comprise what we refer to as the “contentS” of the media that package and deliver them. So content also includes conversations delivered by...
  8. 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...
  9. 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...
  10. Adopt a “Buying” Sales Mindset

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    In my view selling is 85% mindset and 15% technique. Unfortunately, most sales professionals focus primarily on learning sales techniques. Adopting a better sales mindset might be what’s required. I call it a “buying” mindset. I’m looking to acquire customers for my business. What is Selling? This is a question I regularly ask B2B sales professionals, especially those with new customer acquisition responsibility (hunter), more than an account maintenance (farmer) role. I get all kinds of answers. But generally they sound like: “Persuading someone to buy my product or service.”   “Finding people who need my product and convincing them we have the best.” “Selling is the way that you help customers to buy products and services from your business.” As you are undoubtedly thinking, there’s nothing really wrong with these answers, and the thinking they reflect. But they imply two things: Selling is something you have to do (can...
  11. New Sales Competency – Use Content to Sell

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      The digital era has ushered in many behavior changes, especially for B2B buyers. Sales professionals have been slower to change their sales methods to adapt and align with new buying processes and the expectations of buyers. Those who are not actively and effectively using content to sell are missing an important opportunity to capture a selling advantage, lower selling time and costs, and accelerate successful sales outcomes. “Social selling” while new and popular, doesn’t yet represent a significant breakthrough in the way B2B sales people sell. As currently applied, social selling is primarily a different (and hopefully more efficient way) to research buyers, to network, and to conduct some initial touches. In reality, and almost by definition, most sales people have never really used content to sell. Two supporting reasons for this are the traditional lack of sales ready, customer relevant content, and poor ability to find content for specific...
  12. More Than Content Needs Overhaulin’

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    For all the time, attention and investment made in sales enablement tools, it’s a shame a fraction of that hasn’t been invested in solving the core problem: the content itself. One of our colleagues often quips: “it’s easier to buy software.” He means easier than figuring out the culture and process changes, aligning siloed functions, enrolling stakeholders, and resolving all the interdependent causes of problems. He also says, “every major purchase is essentially a change management initiative.” Despite the lip service and pockets of success (sustainable?), sales enablement hasn’t yet met expectations. But then …. CRM? I was reminded of this by Tom Pisello’s summary of the Qvidian users conference. Top Priority: Content Overhaulin’. While “purging, aligning and personalizing” content might be necessary work, what’s really required is a better process for content. How can it possibly be, that in the fifteen years I’ve been involved with B2B content, most...
  13. Need Better Content? Define Your Use Case Requirements

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    Perhaps you’re the sales leader, and your sales people lack the content they need to sell effectively in this age of online, self-educating, stealth buyers. Or, perhaps you’re responsible for lead generation and demand management, but you lack effective education-oriented nurturing content to support your desire to deploy multiple persona, stage and industry relevant nurturing campaigns. You might manage channel sales and your partners regularly complain they lack channel appropriate content to fuel their lead gen and selling activities. Or, you are accountable for any number of other content dependent, customer engaging groups across your organization. Your inventory and budgets are starved for the customer relevant content you require. You each know the performance of your group suffers due to poor, missing or impossible to find content for key situations.  Yet your organization is cranking out more content than ever before. What’s going on? More importantly, what can you do...
  14. Improve Sales Proficiency With Relevant Sales Conversations

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      Why relevant? What does relevant really mean? How would you know if you are having a relevant conversation with a buyer? How does this improve your proficiency and results? Relevant — adjective; 1. bearing upon or connected with the matter at hand, pertinent Pertinent — adjective; 1. pertaining or relating directly and significantly to the matter at hand. Being relevant is important due to the shift of the locus of control in buying/selling situations. Traditionally, buyers were dependent on vendors through their sales representatives for information. This “conversation” typically went: “Here’s what we have (product, solution), here’s what it does (features), here’s how it will help you solve your problem (benefits).” Today, buyers are conducting self-directed, online research, deep into their decision process. B2B buyers don’t need vendor/product information until later in this process. They don’t believe — often because they haven’t experienced — sales reps can provide any...
  15. Improve Sales Proficiency By Being Relevant to Buyers

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    Why relevant? What does relevant really mean? How would you know if you are being relevant with a buyer? How does this improve your proficiency and results? Relevant — adjective; 1. bearing upon or connected with the matter at hand, pertinent Pertinent — adjective; 1. pertaining or relating directly and significantly to the matter at hand. Being relevant is important due to the shift of the locus of control in buying/selling situations. Traditionally, buyers were dependent on vendors through their sales representatives for information. This “conversation” typically went: “Here’s what we have (product, solution), here’s what it does (features), here’s how it will help you solve your problem (benefits).” Today, buyers are conducting self-directed, online research, deep into their decision process. B2B buyers don’t need vendor/product information until later in this process. They don’t believe — often because they haven’t experienced — sales reps can provide any other useful information....

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