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.
It’s becoming harder to make the sale. Just 53% of sales people are achieving quota—meaning 47% aren’t meeting their sales goals. It’s likely your sales team will need to transform to perform.
Here are 5 strategies to get you on the path to reach your sales goals this year.
Prior to COVID-19, sales organizations were planning on improving new account acquisition as well as aligning their annual strategies around expanding business in existing accounts. The onset of the pandemic forced all organizations to re-examine priorities, with only 19% now prioritizing the pursuit of new logos and the vast majority focusing on retaining and expanding existing clients. With 70% of sales leaders saying that the length of the sales cycle for new customers is higher than pre-COVID-19 levels, focusing on existing clients is a less time-consuming path to achieving sales goals.
However, sales skills are lagging on the execution of this strategy; only 31% of sales people effectively cross- or up-sell to current customers.
Consider how to build stronger account management capabilities in your organization in order to reach this year’s sales goals. Focus on positioning sellers as solution consultants, cultivating buyer-centric relationships and developing relationship maps for each customer.
Review how to build a stronger culture of internal collaboration and information-sharing between internal teams. Every customer interaction is an opportunity to collect insights that may translate into a sales opportunity; your customers interact with your service professionals 10x more than they do with your sellers.
It’s a missed opportunity if service teams aren’t listening for cues and clues to bring in sales colleagues or jointly working with sales on cross- and upsell approaches on a client-by-client basis.
Read more on sales training courses, including account management skills.
Marketing has gone from providing 22% of sales leads prior to COVID-19, to 17% during the pandemic (with sales primarily filling that gap in generating their own leads). At the same time, the number of organizations that report no agreement on lead definitions between sales and marketing jumped from 38% to 46%, with an additional 32% relying only on an informal agreement. What this means is that during the pandemic, sales not only received fewer leads from marketing, but the leads that they are receiving are often not the ones they want to pursue.
This disconnect is costing wasted resources, with a disjointed sales and marketing strategy holding back the achievement of sales goals.
Invest time in mapping the customer’s path to purchase – it’s likely to have changed during the pandemic. Both sales and marketing need to follow their buyers’ lead; they need to align strategies for winning business and reaching sales goals to the way buyers want to solve problems.
As customers consider a purchase, they evaluate the opportunity, research possible solutions, compare prospective sellers, narrow the field and then choose a winner to make a deal with. Aligning both marketing and sales to this process keeps the buyer’s needs at the forefront of their attention and will help both functions to be aligned to the common end goal of winning business.
It’s universally agreed that it’s become more challenging to achieve sales goals over the last year. 56% of sellers say it’s taking more meetings to progress opportunities – at each stage of the sales cycle. And 35% of sellers report that clients and prospects have higher expectations on virtual calls than they previously had for in-person meetings.
Buyer expectations about the information that sellers provide has increased; back in 2018, 47% of buyers preferred for sellers to get an understanding of their needs and then be presented with new ideas, information and thought leadership.
Fast forward to today and the most common preference (among 35% of buyers) is to receive information to review before a call with the salesperson.
Given these increased buyer expectations, it’s worth taking a closer look at how sellers are using call planning tools - especially considering that only a third of sales managers think their teams are effective at using them. Be thoughtful in determining which sales calls require documented planning and consider how they can best be used to get the outcome both they and their customer want from the sales call.
The benefits of investment here are clear: organizations that excel at using call planning tools have 21% higher win rates than their peers. Read more about how to effectively use sales call planning tools.
Sales organizations with the right talent in place to be successful in a virtual selling environment have 9% higher quarterly revenue attainment and 13% higher quarterly win rates than their peers.
However, not many sales organizations feel confident that they have the right people. This isn’t surprising, given that 63% of sales revenue is achieved by an average of just 20% of the salesforce. For sales leaders to achieve and exceed sales goals, they need to prioritize closing these talent gaps.
Take the first step by getting to the bottom of what makes high performers excel at what they do. This gives a robust benchmark to hire and develop against. It’s critical to look further than previous performance data; just because an individual has been successful achieving their quota in the past doesn’t guarantee future success.
Sales and HR leaders need to work together to learn about the “DNA” of the top seller of the future; the behaviors, traits and drivers that define success. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to this activity, however, because it requires successful selling behaviors to be related to how buyers engage with the organization. Only with this understanding is it possible to move away from a talent approach based on experience towards one based on what current and future top sellers are made of, and what will make them thrive.
It’s an investment worth making; organizations that understand what “good” looks like for each of their sales roles and use this as a benchmark for hiring and development decisions have 15% higher quota attainment. Read more on closing sales talent gaps.
Consistent coaching has a strong impact on sales goals. Our research shows that sales organizations with managers who are more effective at developing and coaching their salespeople have 24% higher quota attainment.
Yet, finding time for coaching isn’t always easy. Pre-COVID-19, sales managers were spending twice as much time on administrative work and forecasting as on sales coaching, with only a third of them consistently coaching their people to higher performance.
During the pandemic, with social distancing and remote selling, sales managers have ramped up their visibility to their sales teams. They’ve started using regular check-ins and greater engagement strategies to continue developing their teams. And they’ve modeled appropriate behaviors for their sellers and conducted more rigorous funnel reviews.
However, it’s not always about more coaching – it’s also about when this takes place.
Encourage sales managers to get involved with supporting their teams earlier in the sales funnel than they normally would. Joining calls during the qualification stage offers the most impact, but nearly three quarters of sales managers are more likely to join later in the process. Boost performance by switching the timing of these coaching practices. Read more on sales coaching here.
Want to learn more about today’s sales practices? Download our new report, The Brave New World of Sales, for more data and insights:
Looking to accelerate your sales performance? Contact us to speak to one of our experts.