It’s challenging to work in sales management today. Sales managers often resemble Atlas, tasked with holding up the world as their areas of responsibility are ever-increasing:
- managing their team and market
- improving their sellers’ skills
- bettering the customer experience and
- delivering stronger sales results.
As if these pressures aren’t enough, sales managers must handle these responsibilities in turbulent times. Three key waves of change buffeted the sales ecosystem in recent years making it harder for sales managers to achieve their goals—especially when they’re following outdated sales management strategies.
- Sellers Play a Smaller Role in the Buying Journey
Nearly three-quarters of B2B buyers say they prefer to wait to engage a seller in the buying process until they have uncovered and prioritized their needs. That’s because, informed by their experience as consumers and with plentiful information at their fingertips online, buyers no longer view sellers as a top resource capable of helping them solve their business problems.
Today’s buyers instead look to eight other resources first, including industry subject-matter experts, vendor websites, industry events, peers and even social networks. Sellers finished next to last in our Buyer Preferences Study, which surveyed the resources of most use to buyers in their decision-making process. Why have sellers plummeted down the ranks? Most buyers think that sellers will merely meet their expectations and won’t provide added value or find new strategies for solving their business problems, which doesn’t create loyalty; instead, it fosters apathy.
- Sellers Struggle to Adopt New Selling Methodologies
Sellers who engage buyers earlier in the buying process open those doors by finding ways to exceed their customers’ expectations. The primary approach we recommend to exceed expectations and deepen those relationships is by delivering perspective to customers in the form of valuable insights and thought leadership, truly understanding a buyers’ business and personal problems and helping buyers reframe their thinking to solve them. Perspective can take various forms, such as detecting an unrecognized problem, suggesting an unanticipated solution to a problem, highlighting an unforeseen opportunity or serving as a broker of capabilities—that is, providing a service or information that goes outside the usual scope of the seller’s business.
Sharing perspective has a significant impact on win rates—more than 23% for sellers who excel at providing perspective compared to those who fall short—yet only 11% of sales organizations have mastered this type of selling, according to our 2018-2019 Sales Performance Study. Perspective is difficult to master: sales managers must coach sellers through the mindset and behavioral changes required to build a foundation for forming a long-term partnership with buyers.
- Sales Organizations Continuously Reinvent Themselves
Sales organizations recognize the changes sweeping the industry. In fact, they have forsaken constancy to try to transform their organizations to keep up with the times. The most pressing worry that sales leaders deal with today is transforming their organization to meet new expectations.
But change for the sake of change isn’t the answer; a haphazard approach to sales transformation won’t make an impact. To successfully implement meaningful change requires the buy-in and enablement of sales managers: they have the most direct impact on the front line, with a ratio of one manager for every eight sellers. Unfortunately, the wave of change has yet to address shortcomings in sales management strategies.
Managers Are the Catalyst for Organizational Change
Sales managers are the key to weathering these three trends and facilitating change: they are the linchpin between the sales organization, sellers and buyers. Yet most organizations’ approach to enterprise sales strategy, and particularly sales management strategy, has not evolved to match today’s expectations. As a result, today’s sales managers excel at meeting goals with a short-term impact, such as working the funnel and getting things done; they fall short with the key activities that drive sustainable performance improvement for the long-term, such as implementing data-driven hiring strategies, coaching and ensuring that sellers adopt sales technology tools.
To drive change, sales organizations must focus on mitigating these weaknesses and letting go of long-standing—and less effective—sales practices. Download Running in Sand: 2020 Trends in Sales Management to learn three critical ways that sales organizations must transform their sales management strategies to meet the new normal of sales.