2021 Buyer Preferences Study: Reconnecting with buyers
Buyers are becoming harder to please, and sellers are failing to prove their value. Discover how sales organizations can overcome this gap.
Learn where you're strong, where there's room for improvement, and what you need to do to increase your sales team performance
Maximizing sales performance is an integrated development journey, delivered digitally at scale that drives sustainable change. We guide you through defining what success looks like to assessment, personalized training, and coaching for your sales teams.
Our solution also incorporates a full suite of industry-leading sales performance methodology and skills programs from Miller Heiman Group®, now part of Korn Ferry.
We help you improve the performance for all of your sales talent and ensure that new approaches are executed over the long term—across manager and team member roles, from account management and business development to sales support.
Our Sales Performance integrated solution creates a learning journey using our digital learning platform to deploy four components that identify and close critical skill gaps—moving individuals and organizations toward their desired sales transformation.
Contact us and see how our sales performance consulting services can help you.
To execute swiftly, effectively and consistently, you’ll need a partner who can not only collaborate with you to design a sales performance solution, but also help you execute to drive your desired outcomes.
Starting with Korn Ferry Success Profiles™, that leverages decades of job analysis and research, we define the competencies, traits and drivers for over 25 key sales roles that comprise “what good sales performance looks like.”
Then we use these Success Profiles to dynamically measure where your sales talent excels and where they can improve. We will help to:
At Korn Ferry, we know the traits and drivers that predict sales performance in order to move your sales teams toward new skillsets and mindsets you need to know where you stand right now.
By assessing against your Success Profile, you’ll be able to see how your existing talent stacks up as well as any skills gaps.
Our solutions are anchored in our proprietary insights and research into what drives sales performance for specific workforce segments or outcomes.
We create personalized learning journeys from the results of your seller’s assessment which not only reveals any skills gaps but also how that person best learns. Development focuses on the suite of Miller Heiman Group® industry-leading methodology courseware from call management, call execution, opportunity management to account management. These integrated learning journeys combine world-class development content, a self-directed and self-paced ongoing learning path, plus coaching to embed the learning and drive lasting performance change.
Our easy-to-use platform integrates learning with personalized journeys. Enhanced by self-guided learning, this high touch, high-tech solution provides an engaging experience that integrates assessment, development and coaching together in one platform. And you’ll be encouraging a culture of learning and continuous improvement to set your sales talent and organization up for success.
Our experts are the best at what they do. We work with your team as an honest and inclusive partner to achieve and exceed your business goals, and we have the knowledge, expertise and experience to help you achieve greatness.
The Sales Performance Meter is a quick diagnostic tool for sales leaders and teams. It will help you understand the current state of your sales organization and benchmark your sales performance.
Built on years of data and analysis from Korn Ferry Research, the diagnostic asks sales leaders a series of questions about their sales organization. These questions reflect the 12 top sales practices of world-class sales organizations that we have identified in our research.
In the time it takes to answer these questions, you’ll learn where your sellers are performing well, where you need to monitor your sales performance, and where you need to improve.
All you have to do is rate how well your sales organization is performing in these areas, then we’ll compare your responses to those of over 2,000 sales organizations worldwide from our 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study and 2020 Sales Performance Study.
Using the outputs, you will be able to:
The number one way to improve sales performance is by identifying and closing the Potential Gap – the difference between where your sales teams are and where they need to be. To do so requires a full sales transformation journey that incorporates go-to-market strategy, sales structure and processes, sales methodology, sales technology, sales talent and sales training and coaching. Together, these build the sales strategy and sales execution to improve sales performance.
Sales leaders say that talent gaps are currently their top internal challenge. This isn’t surprising, given that 63% of sales revenue is achieved by an average of just 20% of the sales force. This challenge has plagued organizations for at least five years, but the gap is larger than ever now in our virtual selling environment.
Because the sales process is different now, and a new skillset and mindset is needed to reflect the new selling model. Individuals who were successful in the past are not necessarily going to be successful in the future.
The right talent makes all the difference for sales performance. Sales organizations with the right talent to succeed in virtual sales have higher quarterly revenue attainment (9%) and quarterly wins (13%). That’s why world-class organizations are taking steps to address their talent gaps and are 22% more likely to rank investing in acquiring new sales talent as their highest talent priority over the next two years.
Leading organizations are taking three steps to future-proof their sales talent for stronger sales performance. First, they invest time in identifying the traits and competencies that have become more prominent because of shifting trends. Second, they use talent assessments to evaluate their current sales teams, new hires and redeployments against this agreed upon profile for success; and third, they make a plan to close the talent gap. With only 27% of organizations planning to add to their sales team over the next year, the most likely route for closing the gap is to work on developing and deploying existing talent.
Sales training and coaching are essential to delivering results—especially in an environment where the skill and mindset requirements are changing, for organizations skeptical about whether they have the right talent to succeed. When organizations follow a formal or dynamic coaching program that reinforces their sales methodology and process, their win rates increase by 16%. And, with ongoing development, seller engagement rises while attrition drops – all having a positive impact on sales performance moving forward.
Analytics have emerged as a key component of sales effectiveness, yet only 23% of organizations globally use sales analytics to measure and predict sales performance.
When sales leaders use predictive analytics paired with a CRM, they’re more likely to guide sellers to success.
Predictive analytics allows one-on-ones with sellers become more efficient. Instead of reviewing data points that should already be in the CRM platform, you’re able to immediately focus on the specifics of each opportunity. This allows you to coach the seller on techniques that have worked for other sellers with similar opportunities.
With predictive analytics, you can coach sellers on behaviors like using the successful questions that top performers ask during discovery to identify various stakeholders. Or perhaps there’s a particular type of messaging used when you’re head-to-head against a certain competitor that has proven successful. Without analytics, you may not have noticed the similarities of new opportunities to past deals and missed a chance to apply successful techniques.
Investing in sales management is critical to changing seller behavior and growing overall sales performance. To make that investment happen effectively, sales organizations should embrace four practices to overcome the hurdles that all of this change brings.
1. Implement a rigorous hiring process for sales managers and leaders
Sales managers hold a tremendous sphere of influence: they’re responsible for an average of eight direct reports. Put the wrong person in a managerial role, and the impact is exponential: a poor sales director selection typically affects five other sales managers and between 35 and 45 sellers.
Despite the potential negative effects of a sales manager who’s a poor fit for the role, few organizations take a formal or dynamic approach to hiring. That’s often because almost half of sales organizations promote from within; with a known quantity, sales leaders feel comfortable following an informal hiring process. While this can save money and avoid the lag time of having to learn the business, organizations don’t realize that strong performance as a seller doesn’t necessarily translate to managerial success.
Instead, organizations should use a data-driven hiring process for both internal and external candidates. Sales leaders should follow the same process of creating a candidate profile for sales managers and use sales talent assessments to find candidates with the attributes who match their leadership profile.
2. Enable sales managers directly
Many organizations invest significantly in training their frontline sellers, given their proximity to buyers. However, they spend significantly less time and fewer resources on training their sales managers. Nearly a quarter of organizations report spending $500 or less on training each manager, focusing their attention on seller skills such as sales process, methodology and CRM usage. Enabling sales managers through coaching, content and training is often an afterthought.
To be successful, managers need sales enablement strategies targeted directly to their needs: namely hiring, coaching, reviewing seller performance and forecasting. Organizations should focus on creating enablement strategies that speak to managers’ needs, then use them as an additional base of support to roll enablement efforts out to frontline sellers.
3. Give sales managers access to leader-specific technology
At most sales organizations, sales leaders leverage the sales technology stack to help sellers close more deals, prioritizing frontline seller needs over managerial tools. Indeed, only half of sales organizations equip their managers with technology that supports the coaching process; another 20% plan to add this technology in the next year. Coaching tools, especially those aided by artificial intelligence, can help managers guide sellers more efficiently and effectively.
The key to choosing the right leader-specific sales technology is to integrate it with sales managers’ processes and workflows. Instead of automating existing, ineffective processes, technology should make managers’ lives easier. It should improve their efficacy while saving them time and avoiding duplicate data entry.
When an organization rolls out a new sales tech tool, their leaders should ask sales managers whether it will give them additional insights into seller performance or help them deliver more structured, timely coaching. Look for tech capable of breaking down videos of sales conversations, prompting coaching activities or providing motivational insights linked to talent profiles.
4. Use a variety of KPIs to measure and incentivize manager performance
Many organizations focus exclusively on revenue and other lagging metrics to measure performance. The problem with these metrics is that sales managers can choose how to achieve their numbers: they can coach their sales team, do their own selling or allow a few top sellers to carry the load. Because there’s no disincentive to the latter two approaches, all too often sales managers spend more time on selling and administration than on developing their team.
Only 35% of sales organizations use leading indicators—such as seller engagement and retention, client retention and forecast accuracy—to evaluate and compensate sales managers. These metrics are better indicators of how well sales managers are fulfilling their goal of developing their sellers.
It’s critical to transform your sales team for many reasons. One is that the gap between sellers and buyers is widening. Buyers are becoming better at buying, and sellers are not keeping up.
World-class sales organizations are breaking through the disruption to transform their strategy and processes. They are doing this by reinforcing fundamentals, engaging both methodology and technology.
With changed go-to-market strategies and extended selling cycles, there have been seismic shifts in sales rep priorities over the last year. Today, organizations are emphasizing retention and penetration selling efforts over new logo acquisition. And more organizations are moving away from direct sales to web and tele-based roles.
As a result, historical sales roles and structures may no longer be fit for purpose. And for those organizations that may have implemented pandemic-driven temporary fixes to their sales teams, there’s a need to switch to more holistic, future-focused changes to make long-term sales transformation successful.
Sales talent issues are commonly associated with hiring. “I can’t find anyone who meets our requirements.” “I can’t afford the talent I need in this market.” But in reality, the most common missteps occur after hiring and continue well beyond it. Many organizations have significant opportunities to keep seller exits from happening or, depending on the situation, make them happen more quickly.
There are 5 things to think about when creating and keeping a successful sales team:
1. Have an onboarding program for your sales team
Most organizations have an onboarding program, even if it’s informal. But often, onboarding ends up being too much one-way information sharing of product knowledge. Study participants who agreed or strongly agreed that they had a strong onboarding program reported getting sellers up to full productivity within 8.5 months.
2. Extend development beyond new hires and poor performers
A dedicated sales enablement discipline that supports both sellers and managers through onboarding, ongoing development and sales coaching is a critical element of the sales talent system.
3. Prioritize and formalize sales coaching
It’s still true that most people quit managers, not jobs. Yet, despite almost two decades of discussion on the importance of sales coaching, Korn Ferry’s recent research found that 62.9% of organizations are still leaving coaching up to managers to be done ad hoc or using an informal approach.
4. Look beyond commissions to drive engagement
Many falsely assume that salespeople are “coin-operated,” meaning that if they’re making money, they’re happy. Others over-emphasize superficial tactics to motivate sellers. Neither approach is the right way.
Sellers need to feel that they can be successful in your world and meet their personal and professional goals. For some, this may mean management opportunities, but not for most. For others, it may mean first crack at selling new products, access to sales support or input into product development plans.
5. Use data for succession planning, off-boarding and other restructuring initiatives
Like hiring and onboarding, data can help smooth other types of transitions as well. Put simply, the more you know about your sales force, including what works and what doesn’t, the better prepared you’ll be for both the planned and the unexpected.
For years, our data has shown that the top 20% of a sales team contributes over half (62% in the 2020-2021 Sales Performance Study) of revenue. Yet, even with such a high reliance on such a small group of people, only 26% of sales organizations assess their sellers to learn what makes their best so successful.
If sales organizations “assess” anything, they gather information from interviewing their sales leaders. They ask these leaders why the top people in their sales team are successful, then try to build a competency model and train their sales talent to be more like the top performers or at least begin to hire for what they believe is the profile of a top performer.
However, there are some significant drawbacks to this approach.
1. You may not want more salespeople who are like your best
You may find that while your top sales team performers are important to your organization, you can’t accommodate a greater proportion of them. They may be prone to working outside of the system, creating legal risk, innovating hard-to-fulfill solutions or requiring large amounts of support resources.
2. What is the best today may not be the best tomorrow
Buyers, industries and products are all changing rapidly. Sellers who may have broad success selling products may struggle with a SaaS model. Those who excelled when a product first went to market may struggle when lower-cost options emerge. Market factors may drive your organization to adopt a vertical versus a geographic, territory-based model.
3. Your “best” sales talent may not be the best
Most sales organizations measure success using lagging indicators. Top sellers are usually identified by revenue plan attainment. However, hitting a quota may not necessarily mean that a seller is the “best.” They may be very good at farming an existing territory that a previous seller acquired, or they may have a preferential account list due to tenure, background or just pure luck.
4. Sales leaders don’t know why their top sales talent is the best
Good sales leaders will certainly have a good gut feel on best practices — what your best sellers are doing that others aren’t. It’s critical to share those best practices across the company. But your sales leaders aren’t organizational psychologists. They won’t be able to tell you the underlying attributes that separate top sales team performers from others. Many times, what ends up in a competency model (such as product knowledge) isn’t what differentiates the high and low performers.
Instead of a subjective evaluation of sellers from your sales managers, consider what you could learn from a data-driven assessment of their skills and capabilities. With data, you can identify specifically what drives a seller’s success and what to replicate in your training program and future hires.
As you rethink your strategic sales plan and prepare for a sales transformation, it’s critical to consider whether you’ve got the right sales team structure with properly defined sales roles.
There are five things to take into account when evaluating your sales team structure:
1. Customer segments – who do you sell to?
Not every seller works with the same types of customers. Some sellers work on different accounts depending on their size, geography, type, or many other criteria.
More experienced sellers have larger, more established accounts, while newer sellers may be tasked with forming or deepening stronger relationships with smaller businesses. Depending on their task, the role may require a different level of seller effort, skill and engagement.
2. Sales strategy- what strategy do you use to sell?
We classify sales strategies into three types: penetration, acquisition and retention. Penetration means broadening and deepening relationships with existing customers. Acquisition, which is hunting for new customers, is the hardest role, because sellers have to create awareness and interest in a product or service. And retention is about holding on to existing business, which makes it the easiest, most cost-effective type of sales work. Sellers should be compensated based on how difficult it is to implement their chosen sales strategy.
3. Organizational hierarchy – how do your sellers fit into the strategic sales plan?
Some sellers operate independently, while others work as part of a team. Some have dedicated support, but others don’t. And some sellers don’t have direct reports, while more senior sellers typically do, which means greater responsibilities.
In more complex organizations, external personnel may also be involved in sales transactions and may need to be recognized and compensated. The complexity of the role and its interdependence should help you determine how to compensate and incentivize the role.
4. Sales process – how are you engaging with customers?
A sales process spans an entire transaction, from identifying and qualifying a lead through to creating a proposal and closing and fulfilling a deal. Some sellers handle every step of the strategic sales process; others are responsible for only a step or two.
The greater the responsibility and value of the steps handled, the greater the rewards and benefits should be for your sellers.
5. Products and services – what do you actually sell?
It’s important to understand two things: the length of the sales cycle and what products and services for which your sellers have responsibility. Sometimes sellers are responsible for an entire line or just a few items from a company’s offering. Other times, sellers develop highly specialized knowledge in a particular product or service that may be worth a premium.