On the surface, your sales organization looks like it’s doing everything your shareholders or board expects: Your revenue attainment is up, and more salespeople are exceeding their goal than you’ve seen in the last five years.
But if you peel these layers back, how are your sellers performing individually? Are your win rates or quota attainment rates what you forecasted them to be? Look at seller attrition and customer attrition—is that as strong as it was two or three years ago? When you dig into your leading indicators, you may not be seeing the positive growth that typically indicate sales performance success. So the question becomes, are your numbers the result of sales strategies or is a strong economy propping up your organization’s sales growth?
If you suspect it’s the latter, now is the right time to take a step back and review your sellers’ sales skills and methodology alignment. In this, the third in our blog series discussing the findings of the “All That Glitters Is Not Gold: 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study,” we explore four ways that you can align your sales strategies for success, no matter the state of the market.
1. Evaluate Your Existing Talent—and Rebuild Your Hiring Profiles
The top 20% of salespeople typically account for more than 50% of an organization’s revenue, according to the CSO Insights 2018 Sales Talent Study. But intuition and the lagging indicator of quota attainment are largely what sales leaders focus on when evaluating individual sales performance. In fact, only 24% of organizations in the 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study reported that they regularly assess why their top performers are successful.
But diving deeper into what drives these top-performing salespeople to succeed requires a closer look at selling behaviors: what sellers say and do that helps them win deals. Sales analytics platforms like Scout can help sales executives assess win/loss patterns based on sellers’ actions, so managers can coach more effectively and replicate the patterns that lead to more wins.
Additionally, investing in predictive behavioral and talent assessments can help you pinpoint the traits that are most likely to lead to sales success, such as learning agility, intellectual curiosity, connectedness and more, and suggest ways that you can develop these skills across the sales force. These data-driven assessments can also help you build an ideal candidate profile for job applicants and identify career paths for your existing talent, leading to a more effective talent strategy.
After assessing your talent, you’ll know where your sales team’s strengths and weaknesses lie. You can then fill the gaps with targeted coaching and training that will build the sales skills and sales processes that lead to success across the entire sales force. For example, you may determine that individuals (or whole teams) lack specific product knowledge or need a refresher on negotiation skills. With this information, you can request resources to invest in for sales skills training, sales technology tools and other resources you need to close the gaps, help sellers achieve their potential and replicate top performers’ success.
2. Put the Customer at the Center of Your Organization
Buyers are still firmly in control of the sales process, so it’s essential for sellers to find new ways to add value for them. But that value goes beyond closing a deal: buyers today want salespeople to focus on the entire customer experience, from awareness to post-purchase and across every channel, focusing on what happens from the awareness phase to post-purchase, according to the CSO Insights 2018 Buyer Preferences Study.
Focusing on the customer’s path before and after the sale and keeping that path at the center of your sales alignment efforts will help your organization retain more customers, which will be essential to thriving in a slowing economy. To learn more about what your customers want and need, ask them to share their experiences throughout their buying journey.
3. Restructure to Improve Collaboration among Marketing, Sales and Customer Service.
Too many organizations have customer-facing departments with different goals and objectives that operate independently of each other. In this siloed approach to handling customers, marketing, sales and customer service each view the customer through their own lens, without considering the customer experience either earlier or later in the buying cycle. Planning in silos means that each team addresses customer needs piecemeal, so they don’t have a consistent approach and aren’t serving a common goal.
But they’re missing out: for example, customer service reps have the greatest insight into how buyers feel, because they touch customer accounts 10 times more than sales reps do. There are also significant opportunities in getting this right: buyers now expect to have a seamless, positive experience no matter where they interact with a buyer, whether it’s a form on the website or a conversation with a seller. The only way to deliver this consistently is to align together on customer wants and needs.
Ensure that you’ve created a structure to foster collaboration among customer-facing groups. One way to do this is to establish cross-functional account teams. When representatives from sales, marketing, service and product management sit together at the table, they’re more likely to collaborate to ensure that customers enjoy the best possible service and outcomes, no matter their stage in the buying cycle. They can also share insights they’ve gleaned from not only their relationships with various buying influences but also from the data captured in their sales technology, helping them to better understand their customers’ business objectives.
By taking a holistic view of the entire customer relationship, each customer-facing function can do a better job of understanding their customers’ perspective.
4. Get Your Data Strategy Right
On average, sales organizations use 10 different technology tools, and the 2018 Sales Operations Optimization Study shows that they plan to add four more this year. As a result, sales leaders need to embrace data strategy because it ultimately informs their teams’ day-to-day activities. Ignore the temptation to hand data and analytics over to IT, and ask yourself these questions:
- Do we have the right data feeding into these tools?
- Are we collecting the right data from these tools?
- Are we applying analytics to get useful insights from them?
Data tools such as these can revolutionize sales teams. They free up seller time, help sellers zero in on exactly what to do next to move an opportunity forward and aid sales managers in knowing where to focus coaching and selling efforts. By taking a step back and evaluating which data to use, who owns managing the data and understanding where the data originates, sales leaders will better understand how the sales organization can leverage their sales technology stack as an asset for their sales team.
So, How Does Your Organization Stack Up?
Now that you’ve learned about the 12 top practices of world-class sales organizations, it’s time to see how well your organization measures up by investing 10 minutes in assessing your sales organization’s performance through our new diagnostic tool, the Sales Performance Meter.
After taking the diagnostic, you’ll immediately receive a PDF readout that shows where you need to focus on improving, which practices you should closely monitor and where you should maintain existing approaches that currently yield success.
Here are a few of the insights you can expect from your report:
- Your organization’s sales effectiveness, based on sales process maturity and the depth of your customer relationships
- How your sales team’s performance ranks in each segment of the Miller Heiman Group Sales System, including practices that support customer engagement, performance support and strategy alignment
- Access to additional resources that explain the practices and the Sales Relationship Process Matrix in more detail and provide insights into how you can utilize the findings in this report
As you embark on 2020 revenue planning, now’s the time to understand where your company needs to make investments to improve seller performance and steal market share away from your competition—before an economic slowdown.