For leaders of sales organisations, merely surviving is not enough: they want to beat their competitors, continually improve sales performance and truly thrive. However, the sales environment is changing all the time and is arguably more challenging than ever, making this goal harder to achieve.
Today’s customers are better informed, have greater access to information, and can buy products or services from anywhere in the world. In this article, we take a closer look at four future focus areas for sales organisations, which can help them to attain their goal of achieving excellence even in a globalised, tech-driven marketplace.
1. Value and Differentiation
The first step for organisations looking to not only survive, but thrive in the future sales environment is to focus on how they can add value and differentiate themselves from competitors. It is no longer going to be enough to think of products or services as differentiators in of themselves.
“Sales needs to add value and differentiation in every phase of the selling process,” says Byron Matthews, CEO of Miller Heiman Group, in an interview for European CEO Magazine. “Unfortunately, they’re not moving fast enough to embrace change. For the last five years, the number of sales professionals making quota keeps falling.”
Value can be added by going beyond price and negotiating based on the provision of additional support. Delivering a high-quality customer experience at every stage of the buying process, meanwhile, is a great differentiator.
2. Building Better Relationships
The next area sales organisations will need to focus on in future is finding new and innovative way to get closer to customers. With the availability of information, a more informed customer base and the increased amount of competition, it is going to be more important than ever to create the sort of relationships that generate loyalty.
In recent times, we have seen the emergence of social selling, where salespeople leverage social networks and establish their own personal voice, in order to forge deeper, more meaningful relationships with customers. However, CSO Insights research shows that world-class organisations are two years ahead of the chasing pack.
While this particular trend is likely to continue, businesses will need to prioritise other ways of improving their relationships with customers and enhancing their sales effectiveness as well. This may include things like experiential or event marketing, or offering an increased level of personalisation.
3. Alignment With the Customer
Another future trend that will help sales organisations to thrive is increased alignment with customers and their specific needs. This type of alignment was identified as one of 12 best practices for sales organisations to adopt in the 2017 CSO Insights World-Class Sales Practices Report, improving win rates and quota attainment.
To achieve this, sales organisations should map the customer journey, from marketing, to sales, to support or service, identifying the important events and decisions needed along the way. The internal sales processes should then be adapted to reflect this journey, while a customer-centric sales methodology should also be adopted.
Success in this area also requires effective sales coaching to reinforce the alignment and associated processes. Among world-class organisations, 91 percent say they consistently align solutions to customer needs, compared to just 45 percent of all respondents, demonstrating alignment’s ability to improve results.
4. The Science of Selling
Finally, organisations will increasingly need to embrace the science of selling, rather than continuing to see it solely as an art. Improvements in data analytics and wearable technology will make sales more transparent than ever, and the information gathered can help to inform things like sales training and sales coaching.
Technology can also be used to improve sales effectiveness in other ways. For example, CRM software can help to make sales pitches more tailored and specific, while analytics software can help staff to know when to stick or twist.
“Clearly the science is becoming more important than the art,” Byron Matthews says. “It could be having the knowledge, backed by data analytics, to know when to walk away from a deal or when to chase it. It could be knowing when to reach out to a client because the economic forecast says they need what you’re selling.”
For sales organisations looking to thrive in an increasingly competitive environment, it is more important than ever to add extra value to the sales process; build deeper, more meaningful relationships with customers; align sales processes to specific customer needs; and embrace the science of selling. By focusing on these four key areas, businesses can stay ahead of their competitors, develop true customer loyalty and improve the performance of reps.