Bob Apollo (founder of Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners) is a keen observer of where sellers should be focusing their efforts during this period of economic disruption. In today’s episode, learn how to sell in the midst of a downturn. A Recession is not an excuse for not selling. Yes, it’s harder. Yes, it’s frustrating. But if you’re willing to be thoughtful and methodical about how you go to market, you can still hit your numbers. To that end we’re going to dive into the 3 criteria that sellers should use for identifying new sales opportunities at this time. These are simple and effective guidelines for every seller.
Plus, we’ll dig into the concept of time to value. Or what I like to call speed to outcome. And why this is more critically important than ever in sales.
Andy Paul: Bob Apollo. Welcome back to the show.
Bob Apollo: Hey, I’m very pleased to be back again. Thank you for the invite.
Andy Paul: Well, it’s a pleasure to have you. So, where are you, where are you hunkering down?
Bob Apollo: Well, I’m hunkering down. I wish I was hunkering down somewhere else, but I’m hunkering down in the colorful city of Redding in the UK.
Andy Paul: Redding. Does that mean you’re a reading football fan?
Bob Apollo: Oh, Andy. A wish, you know, I thought you’d never ask a, as it turns out. No, I went to one of the games many years ago. But for good or bad, I’m an Arsenal supporter.
Andy Paul: A Gooner. Okay. All right. Well, I’ll still talk though, even though I’m a Liverpool fan, but you’re not a threat this year, so we can, we can chat though. We, you probably took some pleasure in the fact that we weren’t able to equal the record of The Invincibles .
Bob Apollo: Yes. That was very, very gracious of you on deal team. To help us preserve that record. So that was much appreciated. It was a very gallant behavior on your part.
Andy Paul: Well, thank you. Thank you. So, so how have things been in, in the UK? I mean, I’m here in Manhattan. It’s, it’s been shut down. It was yeah. Coming to life a little bit now, but for a period of time, there was a real ghost town. Was it similar? And you know, you’re on the outskirts of London, but in London or.
Bob Apollo: So, you know, I can’t really re read very clearly not from personal experience, what the mood like in London, what the mood was like in London. In Redding, which is a town about 30 miles to the West, and we live on the outskirts of the town rather than in the middle, it’s all been pretty quiet, you know, we’ve exercised daily.
Popped out to get some food shopping and so on. But there have been dramatic reductions in the use of cars and even more dramatic reductions in the use of public transport. So it’ll be a while before that returns to normal.
Andy Paul: Yeah, I, I’ve not been on a subway since this whole thing started. And my wife found herself in a situation, two, three weeks ago, where have found that you had to serve take one, but just our satin surveyed the station at first and no one was going down the stairs. So she went down and yeah. Masks and gloves on and so on and yeah, she was one of two people in a train car. And then in the New York city subway on a Saturday night.
Bob Apollo: She was relieved by that. That doesn’t sound like a regular situation, does it?
Andy Paul: Not in normal times. And so, I’m sure we’re going to get back to that, but it’s, I said you can start to notice the difference in street traffic here. Day by day, it seems like a few more cars and some people come back to work and you hopefully we’ll get to some restaurants and so on opening up before too long.
So, wanted to talk about some things that have to do with, with, business and selling during the COVID era. And, and you had recently written something that I thought was really quite good about how to sell in this time. And, yeah, at one point is, you know, in the midst of crisis like this, or we’ve got a looming recession, which I assume will hit Europe and the U S and so on, is there’s still opportunities to sell in the midst of a recession.
Bob Apollo: Well, that’s absolutely right. And I think it’s extremely dangerous to assume that nobody is buying. People are still buying. It’s just that as salespeople, we have to recognize where the most promising opportunities to help our customers lie. And, I think one of the things I’m seeing, talking to clients is that the projects that are still active, still going ahead, tend to sit at the intersection of that three really important criteria. The, the project is regarded as being, strategically relevant by the customer. That it’s seen as being tactically urgent. And the project can demonstrate a rapid time to pay back. And I think if those conditions are satisfied, it’s clear that, you know, the more agile, customer organizations, looking ahead, they’re not just looking at the current situation.
Andy Paul: Yeah. And so when, when you talk about being strategic, strategically relevant, easy for me to say, it seems like you’re sort of leaning toward projects that maybe have a lot to do with, with, transformation, right? As a lot of companies have been heavily involved in digital transformation efforts and almost now more than ever, when you’re seeing that this huge disruption in the way we work and go to market and the way our customers are borrowing that this perhaps takes on greater urgency.
Bob Apollo: Well, I think it does. And I think one of the other associated patterns I’m seeing is it would probably be pretty rare nowadays for organizations not to have some sort of digital transformation initiative, you know, the level of maturity of that initiative varies pretty wildly. And also th e level of current success of that program, varies pretty significantly and some of the projects that I’ve seen going ahead are really around, a digital transformation initiative, which is seen to be strategically relevant, which has been running into obstacles. And which if those obstacles are not eliminated, will put the, the digitizing company at a disadvantage as the market recovers. So they need to do something about it. You know
Andy Paul: I would think there’d be a sense of insecurity if you were in the midst of one of these transformation projects where this big disruption and you’re looking ahead and you’re thinking, yeah, . What if my competition beats me to this point?
Bob Apollo: That’s where, you know, the marketeers have for a long time, talked about buyer personas. But I think now there are also, there always have been actually, organizational personas and it’s really important and necessary to understand whether the potential customer is one of those organizations that are sort of internalized the current situation and seen it as an opportunity, to emerge from, as the recovery, builds up pace to emerge at the head of that wave rather than trailing behind. And I think. There are some other potential customers who are perhaps more, more conservative about that. And I think you need to be able to read that.
and you, you, I see it in the pronouncements, the actions that the organizations are taking, you know, do they see this as a opportunity to become agile, to emerge more strongly? Or are they still obsessed with just keeping the lights on?
Andy Paul: Yeah, preserving the status quo. I think if there’s one thing that’s clear from this, if there’s any company that thinks that they’re going to preserve the status quo, as it existed back in February, when September comes around or January 1st or whatever, they’re really fooling themselves.
Bob Apollo: In every industry, there are obvious industries, but I think this is true in every industry. So one of the things I advise salespeople to do, I think it’s always a good discipline to have a target account list, is to really go back and forensically reevaluate the target account list, according to what you can learn about, you know, the organizations on that list, likely behaviors in, you know, as they emerge, from, you know, the challenges we’re all facing right now.
Andy Paul: Yeah. Well, I think that there’s two things that come out of that. One is, yeah if a sales person takes that advice and says, look, they’re going to go back, we’re going to look at the publicly available information that could be, if they’re a publicly traded company, could be financial statements, you know, filings , it could be press releases, whatever you could search online and try to find, is that in doing so, you’re also going to improve your business acumen to some degree, your ability to assess the opportunities that exist.
Bob Apollo: Absolutely right. It would certainly hope so. Wouldn’t you? Because, whenever I thought about ideal customer profiles and of course that’s one input into a target account program, I’ve always been absolutely convinced that a purely demographic approach to identifying target accounts, you know, our accounts are a certain size of a certain location and a certain industry, all that does is to paint the boundaries of the market you might choose to play in. It’s much, much more important but harder to do, which is why I think the effort is necessary and very worthwhile, to understand, sort of the structural, behavioral and cultural, dimensions of the organization within that demographic box, and use that information to make smarter judgements, about where your energies ought to be focused.
Andy Paul: Well tools exist. You can get the, so the technographic outline or, you know, what technologies are they evaluating, are they looking at other firmographic information? Are they hiring-
Bob Apollo: All of these things much, much more important, I think as indicators of potential than just the very classic, you know, the, the classic demographics and of course, you’re right. Those actually, if you, if you’re willing to look for it, there’s an abundance of information that can give you very, very useful indicators. You’ve talked about hiring, you know, there are various ways whether you’re looking at LinkedIn job adverts or what have you, you can far more reasonably access than you used to be able to information about the systems and platforms in place within organizations. If you’re like many of my clients are in the tech space and your, Sort of in one of these emerging Skylar companies, you probably want to assess whether your, your, your, your, your potential prospects, have a track record of actually investing in a best of breed platforms, as opposed to always running back to, you know, the big established brands. That, that is a really, really powerful technographic, indicator and of course, in addition to that, there are certain platforms which have in place your very complimentary to, and so on. Those, so it’s both structural and actually the platforms they use have some behavioral implications to them, you know, are they early adopters or they, you know, very conservative.
Andy Paul: Yeah, I found another one that sort of struck me the last couple of days that I’ve been reading business news and so on, is that, I would look for a company that has refused to lay off employees. You know, looking at example of a company, I forget the name, but across the board, they all took all the employees, took 35% pay cuts in order to preserve the jobs.
Now to me. It seems like the psychology of that organization as they come out of the wreck into the recovery would be much more unified and aligned internally and people willing to go the extra mile to make things happen as opposed to accompany that laid off 50% of their sales team. And now they’re trying to hire people back.
Bob Apollo: Yeah, very transactional, right? and actually that’s such an interesting story because I, you know, many years ago, several decades ago, I cut my teeth as a salesman at HP, in the days when HP was a, I think, a dramatically different company to the one you’d recognize today. And it was company that had bunches of stories about, how it treated its employees and actually before my time, they had been through, a recession, a minor recession, and, they had collectively agreed that, for a period of time, employees would take a cut in salary, as a collective effort, to preserve the workforce, it would be ready for the recovery. So, you know, I think that’s such a healthy perspective and you know, I think if you were looking for which companies you might want to join, I think certainly my mindset would be I’d much, much prefer to be working for an organization that had this, you know, we’ve invested heavily in building the expertise of our people. The last thing we want to do is just think of them as objects to be discarded one moment. And you know, in the belief that all we have to do is recruit and we’re back to where we were. I think that’s a completely misguided approach.
Andy Paul: I was also talking about from the perspective, if I were a seller and doing process, doing my research for building my target account list, and I was going to prioritize where I spend my time. I would focus on the company that, that stayed together, where the CEO made the decision, the management team made the decision, we’re going to preserve our team. Cause obviously we got a ton of value there and I’d look at them as saying, yeah, they probably are the type that would be more, more likely to make the investment at this point in time, because they obviously are making it by keeping the people around to solve some urgent problem they have.
Bob Apollo: Yup. So these are all good indicators. Aren’t they? If you, you, you thoughtfully choose where to look, what to look for, what signals to, to try and pick up. For sure.
Andy Paul: And so your third aspect I was thought was, well, the second aspect you’re talking about as, as I was a tactically urgent, which yeah, there are problems people need to fix in the midst of a recession. I mean, it’s funny, this is going to be a potentially a kind of steep recession, but you know, previous recessions, we’re talking about economic activity, collectively falling 2%, 3%. So on. I mean, not, it’s not like business activity comes to a halt.
Bob Apollo: Yeah, I think this is a dramatically different scenario. And, it’s harder. I think actually, to look at any of our, any of the experiences of people who are currently living and, you know, I mean maybe at the edge of that, the great depression, because I think even their economic activity, as far as I can, you know, judge. Didn’t fall at the level that, I think it has, you know, it, it will decline to before it recovers.
Andy Paul: Yeah. In the second quarter, for sure. I mean, that’s, we’ve seen some initial earnings reports for part of that period, but you know, have been rough for some companies been okay for others, but I think a full quarter impact and, or the next two quarters that has gotta be kind of grim. So in that environment for sellers, the messages though that, yeah, not all is sweetness and light, but to your point, there are three criteria you can apply, which I agree with them to try to find and identify the opportunities that that were companies need to move forward.
Bob Apollo: Right. And, you know, as part of that process, by the way of looking for those three considerations, I think you need to have a very clear sense of in the current environment, what business issues or challenges or opportunities you’re really good at helping your customers deal with.
Andy Paul: Yeah. I mean, even if you narrow the scope of what you typically sell.
Bob Apollo: And, and by the way, I think sometimes you need to do that, this narrowing of the scope, because, I was observing this actually in the past few years and some of the clients I’ve worked with sometimes salespeople for a variety of motivations sort to make the deal as big as possible, you know, could we sell this to another department? Could we add another module? And the danger with that,and it was a danger then it’s even more of the danger now is you just make the whole decision making process, the financial approval and so on, just so complicated that you sort of, you defeat your ability to help the customer come to a confident, timely decision.
So I, and of course, the growing number of the organizations I work with, you know, I guess maybe your experience as well are selling, the offering as a service rather than an outright purchase. So, you know, just get your boots on the ground in the, in the customer, find an application, demonstrate your value, land and expand.
Andy Paul: Yeah, well demonstrate value with a quick payback. I agree. Speed to value is, is I think really important if you’re trying to demonstrate a sense of urgency for the buyers to why to proceed at this point in time.
Bob Apollo: Well, and, and, and, and part of that, the tactical urgency is a topic that has been on my mind for some time, and that’s helping the customer to recognize the cost and consequences of inaction. You know, the, the risks of sticking with the status quo.
Andy Paul: Yeah. Well, I think when I think that’s a good point, because I think that oftentimes gets lost when we talk about reducing the perception of risk for the buyer in terms of making a decision to proceed, is there is always the 180 degree perspective, which is, what is, what is the risk? I mean, I tell people they balance out, right?
I mean, the, the risk of, of not moving forward should, in some ways, be the inverse of, you know, the degree of risk of, of moving forward.
Bob Apollo: Well, and my observations are that there’s no most compelling proposals actually address both. You know, they addressed the idea that if we just stay as we are, there’s, maybe increasing unnecessary expenditure, there’s increasing risk and risk burden of risk. And yet if we choose to act and we act in a thoughtful way and we’re persuaded by the vendor, to have confidence in their approach that you balanced, that cost of staying as you, the risk of staying where you are with them upside.
So you’re kind of stretching the value gap.
Andy Paul: Hmm. I think the important thing in there though, is that you have to quantify what that is is too often. I see sellers go into situation and they try and make the case as in sort of general terms of the risks of staying still and that’s okay,that might apply to a certain lovely campaign, a certain picture, pull some emotional strings but if you wanna make that really effective is if you agree what the impact is going to be with the customer, what’s staying still. Well, let’s quantify that. What does that mean in terms of top line, you know, dollars or pounds or how do we want to denominate it?
Bob Apollo: How might your revenue growth be slowed or how might your revenue decline? How might your costs go out of control? How might monetizable risks increase? increase. You know, most of these decisions have some element of the need to have an element of rationality, but there also needs to be some element of emotion but I think if there isn’t a rational business case, I think that makes it harder to get people, the approvers to sign off on projects.
Andy Paul: Yeah. So, but to your point is, which I think was a great point, is in this environment is speed to value, meaning how quickly do they get a payback, is really important. So you have to identify those opportunities and those could be, and most likely are, smaller chunks of perhaps bigger opportunities that you’ve already been talking to the buyer about and peel it off. And, I think that this is actually, and I wrote about this in my first book. I actually think this is a strategy you should use at all times.
Bob Apollo: Oh, yeah. I mean, I think all that’s happening and you’ve alluded to this is that these changes have illuminated, good and bad practices that have been around for awhile. And they’ve made the gap between continuing with bad practice and implementing good practice, even wider enough in, you know, in the world of selling.
Andy Paul: Yeah, but to your point about the, the land and expand strategy, and even if you’re doing it, you know, it could be doing it with a subscription based software. It could be doing it with subscription based service, or it could be even hardware products. The primary thing is you got to get in the door and I see too many sellers get hung up on deal size. We know we all want to sell bigger deals and there’s a way to develop them. But there’s oftentimes deals where it’s like, yeah, we’re going to get a big deal, the customers on board, we’ve done the justification. We’ve done the business plan. They’re ready to make that, that decision. They’re comfortable with the risks involved.
They’re comfortable with us, but you also have to be aware and say, okay, we’ve got real good potential to get a customer here. We’re going to scale this back to get started though.
Bob Apollo: Yup. It’s counter intuitive to some salespeople, not to all, but it’s counterintuitive to some. But in any business that has the potential to adopt a land and expand strategy, that strategy is normally a superior strategy. I tell you, it implies another thing as well. And that’s that in differentiating why the customer should regard, your, your, your solution.
I’m a bit anti the word solution, but let me use lenience, is the one, where the approach to implementing and achieving the results is one that gives them the highest possible confidence. So in other words, you’re not just selling the old product centric, feature, function, benefit, and so on. I think you really need to sell what sets your approach to delivering outcomes apart from the other options that they might be considering. You know, that higher, higher sense of confidence, the outcome or the result, because that you do that well, you can sort of blow away some of the reticence about making a commitment, if there’s that confidence that wow, you know, the way you will work with the customer to achieve the outcome, is a real confidence builder.
Andy Paul: This is a case that were words really matter. And you, you talk about this and, and some of the things you’ve written is that. Yeah, solution is relatively generic. I don’t buy our solution. We have a solution to your problem. It misses that extra step of taking it to a point where you’re talking about outcomes that you can quantify the value of. And as long as you have that gap, it’s hard to make the customer feel like you really understand their problem, their issue, their goals, their objectives, the outcomes they’re trying to achieve. If you keep it generic.
Bob Apollo: Yeah. So the more tailored your value story to the customer’s particular circumstances, the better, and a focus on outcomes, in my view, and in my experience, is not only helpful in securing the sale, it is also tremendously valuable for your implementation and customer success teams to understand, not just functionally what the customer needs, but operationally what business impact they’re trying to accomplish. And so your customer success and your implementation functions can go into that relationship, not just thinking about some of the, conventional metrics of customer success, you know, usage, uptime, what have you, but also think about, well, you may be using it 99.9, 9% of the time, or what have you, but what business benefits have you derived from the fact that the application’s been accessible to you?
And I think we all know that the economics of any sort of sale as a service tend not to turn to profit in the first year. They typically demand a multi year engagement with the customer. To really start ramping on the, you know, the longterm profitability of the relationship and if you’re not achieving the outcomes, or the customer’s not achieving the outcomes, they saw your chances of getting that renewal or that expansion, or what have you are very seriously compromised.
Andy Paul: Yeah. Well, I think that those really speaks to the need, which is more important than ever now is that you have real alignment with an involvement in the sale with your customer success teams and so on so that everybody understands what the expectations are.
Bob Apollo: It’s so important.
Andy Paul: I see cases all the time where, you know, something that’s handed over the wall, okay, here’s this customer, and it’s not accompanied by customer success or wasn’t involved in the deal up front. So they really understood what they were getting into or being committed to. But secondly, even if that didn’t happen, even sales didn’t give them appropriate briefing for, as they meet the customers. THis is what the expectations are of the customer.
Bob Apollo: Oh Lord. And then you expose the customer to hold on. I’ve told, I’ve told you all these questions before I’ve answered all these questions before, when I spoke to the sales person, why is it you’re asking me again? I mean, good grief.
Andy Paul: Yeah. I know you have a, I have a rule of thumb that says that your, your odds of winning a deal, drop in inverse proportions to number of times you ask the customer to explain the requirements.
Bob Apollo: I’m sure there’s statistical validity in that.
Andy Paul: Well, I think about it as, you know, a sales person goes in, does the first call and then when I’m got involved, my manager on the next call, so manager, first question they ask is, you know, tell us what you need, let’s go back through it. And so the messaging to the customer is now the manager doesn’t trust the salesperson because I’ve already told them, and it for themselves. you bring in the CRO or the VP of sales for another, you know, further on down the process, they asked the same question again, and it’s like-
Bob Apollo: Good grief. I mean, there’s, there’s some business models where, for example, you might have business development reps, whose goal is to book a demo, and then somebody else takes over from the demo. And you know, my goodness, if the person who’s coming into the demo cold hasn’t had the benefit of a briefing, a proper briefing, about what the customer’s priorities are and so on. Well, you end up with a demo being a product demo, and that’s the worst of the three types of demo that you might choose to do. You might choose to do a product demo, but that’s really how many features can I show you in the hope that it will stay. You might consciously do what I call a conceptual demo, which is very deliberately high level, very conversational, just trying to position the sort of, approach that your solution takes.
And there’s a strong element of discovery in that conversation as well. And then at the other end of the scale is not a product demo, but a solution demo. And then if you’re doing a decent job, you’re going to be very selective about what you choose to show the customer. And the things you’ll choose to show will be wrapped around a narrative, which is ruined from what you’ve discovered about.
Both the functional requirements and their business needs, you know, conceptual demos are fine in an early stage is a positioning exercise solution. Demos are great. If you’ve done good discovery, pure, full on, let me show you what the product does. Or let me take you on a tour of functionality. I mean, really, you know, salespeople can and ought to do better than that.
Andy Paul: Well, yeah, for all the benefit and all the value the customer would get for that is you can have a two minute explainer video on the front of your website.
Bob Apollo: Well, and in fact, you’re right. And that, and actually the combination of the explainer video, perhaps with a little bit of diagnostic, you know, tell me about your priorities. If priority a, is this video, if priority B has that video and so on, you know, there are absolutely ways around it.
Andy Paul: Well, so you said you do work with a number of tech companies and SAS companies, and so on is, is do you sense? Cause that yeah, making the first outbound call, really an order to connect with the right person, then set up a demo. Do you see that changing that model, changing here in as a result of what we’re going through?
Because there seems to be fairly broad consensus that. Yeah. At this point in time, we really need to reach out just with our focus on how do we help you, right. What’s what’s what are the important things that are going on with you these days that
Bob Apollo: Yeah.
Andy Paul: about that potentially we can help you with?
And so it’s much more of a, a service versus a sales model.
Bob Apollo: Oh, good grief. I mean, it is so much more appropriate. It has always been, I think it’s even more important now to think of that call as, to uncover needs and, and share experiences with the customer that they might find relevant and might persuade them that we could help them achieve their business goals.
You go into that sort of call thinking my primary objective. If you go into that cool thinking. My compensation this month depends on how many demos I bought, not on how good a job I do in engaging the customer and uncovering need. You’re just going to drive another classic case of compensation, driving behavior, both good and bad.
Andy Paul: So, but do you think that you’ll see this type of behavior, which is runs fairly rampant in the SAS business, do you think. Some companies beginning to see it doesn’t work
Bob Apollo: Well, it depends,
Andy Paul: companies.
Bob Apollo: you know, we talked about personalities again, right. And I think there are sales organizations whose personality is very activity driven activity, metric, and not sufficiently focused on. Quality. And I do think there are other sales organizations and some of it comes from the DNA of either the chief executive or the sales leader who, you know, have a more nuanced approach, which says actually what we’re looking for is to generate quality outcomes.
So a quality outcome might be, rewarding the BDRs, not on the number of demos booked, but on the number of sales accepted. Properly qualified opportunities that they’re active generate. and it really depends. I mean, if, if you’ve got a, an enlightened sales leader or CEO, you can’t really impose an enlightened system in that environment.
Andy Paul: Yeah, well, someone make the argument that, that really, since the last recession, 2008, so let’s say 2010, the last 10 years. Sort of the wild, wild West. Yeah. We’ve, we’ve had a booming stock market businesses generally been good. We haven’t had a recession in that time, which is certainly longer than you would expect from a business cycle standpoint.
And thus it sort of has encouraged the, those type of quantity based activity and behaviors.
Bob Apollo: I thought, unfortunately, I think it has. And, there’s this sort of, I, I, there’s an extinction event coming on. If you want to think of the Darwinian thinking. Where, you know, the more agile adaptable organizations, organizations with an eye on the future will emerge from this in very, very different shape from, you know, all we need to do is go back to what we were doing before and turn the amplifiers up to 11.
I mean, not, I think, a good strategy, you know, I will say to you, and maybe it’s self selecting in a Darwinian way as well, that most of the clients I managed to work with, you know, have an enlightened approach and they’re really looking for some, some help and some guidance to, to apply that enlightened, approach rather than.
You know, I think it’s really hard to persuade somebody who’s running, and has believed all their life in a activity metric, a rigid process environment. It’s pretty hard to persuade them unless they come across a really sort of confrontational experience, which forces them to revisit the, you know, the historic assumptions.
It could be hard to persuade content.
Andy Paul: Yeah. So here’s, here’s my thought on, on that to some degree is that, that, and this is, I think to your point about serve a potential extinction event, not necessarily for companies, but perhaps for sales managers, sales leaders is that I think we’ve had, I had this environment that’s enabled people to be in these sales management roles that fundamentally don’t know how to sell.
Now they know how to, you know, work, the activities, match them at activity levels and so on. But, but when they coming into this era where I think that we’re in now where the ability to connect through shared, shared expense fair hands is on a human level with somebody build that relationship, perhaps more for the future, as opposed to an immediate need or a smaller, immediate need, a larger upside.
But that’s, that’s foreign to a lot of people.
Bob Apollo: Fortunately. Yes. And, you know, they will, I. Think I’m sure struggle with the transition. Certainly if they stay as they are, they’re really going to find it increasingly, difficult. Now I also think that, you know, we can start to identify certain aspects of sales, DNA that are going to be particularly important in we’re now entering the new world.
We’re now entering. and it’s going to be much more important to have, you know, you talked about business acumen to, develop the sort of business acumen that allows you to have, an insightful conversation, on business issues rather than a technical issues. with executives, absolutely critical.
you know, we need, we’re going to need to hire people and actually identify the people in our current Salesforce who are naturally curious, who are empathetic, who, and this is a real test for me. really on a personal development program, almost regardless of the training that their current employer chooses to invest in.
They themselves. Have set them set themselves on a, sort of a personal improvement track. and that’s such an important thing to look for in hiring, curiosity, good listening, empathy. self-development as well as all the usual sort of attributes that you’d expect. I think the other thing that’s happening and I, I, I do tend to work in.
What your current tries is more complex B to B environments rather than transactional ones. It is a recognition that you do require that flexibility, that adaptability, that business acumen, and you really need to have your sales people working in what I’d characterize as a flexible, supportive framework, rather than a very rigidly defined process.
You know, something that acts as a guide rather than as an auditor. so you know, the, the, the attitudes and the systems need to be supportive of, of that.
Andy Paul: Yeah, I think that’s, that’s critical. And I’ve talked about that here on the show. Numerous times, numerous times with guests is it is to your point is we have to have our own processes set up in a way that we enable people to become the best version of themselves because yeah. Especially in the complex environment, That’s true of all sales situations, but especially in a complex environment, no two situations are ever the same.
Bob Apollo: And I, yeah, but they aren’t. And so your ability to diagnose and react rather than following a script or a rigid process, it’s one of the reasons by the way, why I’ve become, a firm fan of, sort of characterizing the pipeline, not in terms of the very sort of conventional sales activity. Labeled stages, you know, qualifying, demonstrating, proposing, but instead getting salespeople to step back and think about where’s the customer in their decision making process, you know, are they at a very early exploring stage?
Are they starting to more clearly define what it is they think they need and how they’re going to decide? Are they into. Perhaps some more structured selection, evaluation, or even host having decided a preference in a sort of a verifying stage where they really want to go back and make sure they have negotiated the best deal they have eliminated concerns and reservations.
and so on. And I think that customer centric perspective is so much more valuable than a traditional, you know, series of sales activities glued together. but it, it requires
Andy Paul: I agree. A hundred percent on that. The problem is getting people to think that way, being able to change their system to think that way, but, but also to acknowledge that. Yeah, the what’s driving. The conversation is the buyer’s process, not the sales process.
Bob Apollo: Yeah, and you need to work out where they are. And I think you can establish reasonably consistent generic descriptions of the stage of consideration they’re at, but the specifics of their buying process are likely to be well, somewhat unique to them. So there’s sort of a blend of. There, there are some things you can equip sales people to do that reflect this sort of broad understanding of approximately where the customer is in the, in the process.
And of course, it’s really important. You understand what their process is. And I would suggest even more critical to work out whether your prime contact or primary contacts. Really understand how buying decisions get made in their organization, you know, and there’s often a difference. Isn’t that?
Andy Paul: Oh, yeah. Cause they don’t do it very often. You’ll have complex products. You may buy it once every five years. You’re not going to have that
Bob Apollo: This is one of the things we coach to diagnose it in early stage. And there are two really important, simple dimensions. The first dimension is, is this an inevitable purchase or a discretionary purchase? You know, do they have to do something? The only question is what, or is it also possible? They’ll decide to stick with the status quo.
It really, really critical. And I think the second one is to your point, Or the individual, the group of people we’re working through, would we characterize them as experienced or inexperienced buyers? And I think those, those two simple data points, need to inform how we choose to behave and interact with them.
Andy Paul: Yeah. No, absolutely. Absolutely. All right, Bob, we serve a run out of time here today. Unfortunately we can keep on going, but, tell folks how they can connect with you.
Bob Apollo: Well, I’d be delighted to connect with any of the listeners, through LinkedIn or Twitter. You can find me at Baba Paulo on both of those social networking sites. So I’d also be. Exceptionally pleased if anybody was motivated enough to sign up for the blog and they can find the blog at the inflection point website.
And that’s I N F L E X ion dash P O I N t.com.
Andy Paul: Have to get that text spelling in there with the X, as opposed to the C K
Bob Apollo: Yeah. Well this BT occasional confusion.
Andy Paul: yeah, no, it’s a good blog. I subscribed to it recommend people do so. Bob, thanks for joining us.
Bob Apollo: Andy. Thank you very much for the invitation I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the conversation.