2018 saw many sales organizations feeling celebratory about results, with most hitting their revenue targets and higher quota attainment than in years past. But it’s not time to break out the Champagne just yet.

These numbers may be the result of a stronger market—more companies expanded their sales force and added new technologies—but that doesn’t mean they improved their team’s selling skills.

When we look at other critical metrics underlying the glowing results, the numbers paint a more foreboding future. According to the new World Class Sales Practices Report from CSO Insights, the research division of Miller Heiman Group, win rates for forecasted deals came in under 50%; that means more than half of deals that are predicted to close don’t. Meanwhile, customer retention rates declined by 3%.

Based on these metrics, it’s likely that sales successes come as a result of a strong economy—and sellers need to shore up their performance to continue winning amid economic headwinds. They need a system that helps them align every component of their buyer outreach—including sales functions, processes and strategies—around ways they can build and grow relationships with their clients.

But before they can build their connections with buyers, they first need to know where they stand with them. Only then can they figure out how to strengthen those relationships.

The Five Levels of Buyer-Seller Relationships

In its 2018-2019 Sales Performance Report, CSO Insights, the research division of Miller Heiman Group, published its annual update to the SRP Matrix, identifying five relationship levels that describe how evolved a sales organization is in its relationships with buyers.

  • Approved vendor: The seller offers acceptable products or services and is one of several companies the buyer can purchase from but provides no discernible competitive advantage over these other companies.
  • Preferred supplier: The seller has a successful delivery track record, an expanded number of contacts at the buyer and knows how the buyer uses its products or services; the seller is still vulnerable to competition because interactions with the buyer are generally transactional and product oriented.
  • Solutions consultant: The seller has an increased awareness of the buyer’s business, issues and challenges, so they can connect solutions to the buyer’s needs.
  • Strategic contributor: The seller has the awareness of a solutions consultant combined with additional industry or domain expertise, which offers added value to the buyer. The perspective the seller shares often earns them a seat at the table when the buyer has internal discussions about challenges and opportunities.
  • Trusted partner: The seller deeply understands the buyer’s organization and decision-making; the buyer views as essential to the buyer’s long-term success and as part of the buyer’s organization.

Strategic contributors and trusted partners are the promised land: sellers in these categories have a clear edge over the competition. So, how can you get there?

Align Your Sales System to the 12 World-Class Sales Practices

In the 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Report released this week, CSO Insights identified the 12 best practices that distinguish world-class sales organizations from the rest, giving every sales leader the tools to help build a more buyer-centric approach to selling. There are practical steps you can take as we dive deep into each available practice; you can download the report here.

Remember: you’re not alone. In the 2019 report, CSO Insights identified just 9% of sales organizations as world class. Don’t worry about making changes in all 12 areas at once. Prioritize your biggest pain points to start; even making just one or two of these changes can yield tangible results.

For even more ways to level up your connections with buyers, download the 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Report.


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