For most of us, selling has got a lot harder over the last year.
According to our research, only 43% of sellers were making quota and many organizations relied heavily on its top performers with 63% of revenue generated, on average, by just 20% of sellers. These figures probably aren’t surprising, with traditional sales models being turned upside down and with only 30% of sales leaders saying that they have the right talent in place for virtual selling.
What’s more troubling is the future view. Less than half (46%) of sales organizations believe that they have the right people in their team to deliver on sales transformation plans.
Put simply, the profile of top sales talent has changed. Selling will always be part art, part science, and the path to success is to excel at both. However, the science is accelerating and requires new ways of thinking and execution.
Today, buyers are more informed than they’ve ever been. They engage later in the sales process, and they look at sellers differently. They no longer rely on experienced salespeople for information; instead, they want to be inspired to buy. If they’re not, they’ll continue looking elsewhere for the information and inspiration they seek, only engaging with sellers after they’ve made their buying decision.
To respond, selling organizations need a sales force equipped with a different set of skills. Instead of purely asking buyers a series of questions focused on “what’s keeping you up at night”, they also need to come to sales discussions armed with answers. They must bring data-driven insights, offering value to buyers. But it’s harder to do than it sounds, and it requires sellers to be equipped with different skills than they’ve had in the past.
Traditionally, sellers have needed a strong sense of emotional intelligence, or EQ. They needed to be able to influence people, navigate challenging situations and get meetings. They had to be able to build connections and relationships with buyers and needed an innate ability to read people.
And while this remains important, the pendulum has swung to the other side: now a seller’s IQ is equally, if not more, important. Sellers need to be able to consume and analyze data rapidly and then offer their customers personalized insights based on what they’ve learned. They need to educate buyers, sharing the right perspective at the right time to establish both the value proposition of their product or service and the urgency to act. And they need data to inform that perspective, or else their sales pitch likely won’t resonate with buyers.
The reality is that most sales leaders just aren’t sure of the answer to this question. According to our research, only half (52%) of sales leaders are confident that they have a good understanding of what good looks like for their sales roles, and only 26% consistently assess why their top performers are successful.
Having identified the exact “DNA” of top sales talent, the real value of an objective assessment approach is that it exposes exactly which of these behaviors, traits and drivers are present within every individual across the sales function. Assessments drive data-driven insights into individual strengths, weaknesses, what the individual needs to learn based on their skills gaps, and how they prefer to learn or be coached.
The good news: many of these new sales skills are totally coachable. And sales coaching, when done right, has a big impact. Sales organizations with managers who are effective at developing and coaching their salespeople have 24% higher quota attainment than those who don’t.
To create a stronger sales coaching culture to build these new sales skills, here are 3 tips.
Many sales managers believe that they don’t have enough time to coach, especially those who oversee a large salesforce. And it’s generally true that the more sellers a manager supervises, the less coaching time each seller gets. Yet our research shows that it’s not the time spent on coaching that matters; it’s the substance of that coaching. Make sure your managers aren’t purely focusing on the more tradition areas of account, territory and opportunity coaching, at the expense of a focus on skills and behavior.
Most sales organizations focus coaching on lagging indicators such as revenue recognition or bookings. Arming managers with better data on leading indicators will allow them to influence the future instead of just rehashing the past. Which opportunities are in danger of stalling? What behaviors are lacking?
Sales coaching becomes a deeper part of the manager’s routine when it’s supported by a culture of continuous development. Consider your development approach and language as well as what you celebrate.
If you don’t value development, then sales coaching will be perfunctory or reserved for performance-managing people out of the organization, rather than as a proactive and positive force for change. Learn more about our industry leading sales training and methodology on how to train your salesforce better.
In our eBook, Take a personalized journey to drive sales transformation, we look more deeply at impactful learning and development programs for sellers, and how to drive sustainable change in your sellers. Read more on the widening gap between buyers and sellers and the role of talent assessment, coaching and ongoing enablement in building skills to close this gap.