Sales organizations face constant pressure to close deals and hit targets, never more so than in a price-driven market where budgets are tight, and every dollar is scrutinized. But what can we learn from the best-in-class sellers, who time and again exceed these targets? What are they doing that their peers aren’t? 

Our 2024 Sales Maturity Survey reveals the proven practices used by top-performing sales teams globally, detailing how they set themselves apart from their rivals. We found one big trend: the best-selling teams don’t need to rely on discounting as one of their sales techniques. Here’s what they do instead.

Fixate on the Buyer Journey 

Best-in-class sales organizations are defined as the top 20% of performers, according to the metrics of revenue attainment, quota attainment and win rates. And our research found that they have several things in common.  

First, they display a deep understanding of the customer buying journey. Top performers (35%) are twice as likely to have defined/mapped the ideal buyer's journey within their organization, compared to their peers (18%).  

By using analytics, research, training and technology, leading sales organizations use this data to build a customer-centric sales process, which involves aligning their sales activities to the customer’s buying process. This not only creates less friction and higher conversion rates when closing a sale but also deepens customer trust and loyalty, in turn increasing the customer’s lifetime value. Importantly, they combine this approach with flexibility to adapt to changes in the buyer behavior or process.  

Our data reveals that both processes are more widely used among high-performing organizations, with 60% reporting a higher adoption rate, compared to just 37% of their less successful rivals. 

Articulate Customer-Focused Solutions  

Top sales teams focus heavily on solution selling—that is, positioning their offering as a solution to the customer's problems. They then work effectively to communicate these tailored solutions to potential buyers when closing deals.  

Our research found 60% of best-in-class organizations use solution selling compared to just 48% of their peers. And 63% of these top organizations can effectively articulate solutions aligned to buyers’ needs, versus only 38% of others. 

According to Mark Grimshaw, Senior Client Partner, Global Sales & Service Practice at Korn Ferry, hiring talent skilled in solution selling can be a challenge. 

“Having salespeople who understand your customer is one thing. But they also need to be able to align themselves with your customers and what they’re trying to achieve. This requires a distinct set of broader skills. The best sales leaders clearly identify these differentiated skills and understand how to assess for them,” he says.  

Best-in-class sales organizations realize that hiring, while critical, is just the first step. Top sales teams take advantage of the training and resources provided to them, with 70% willing to learn new ideas, processes and tools—compared to just 45% of their peers.  

Use Technology and Sales Data Effectively  

Top sales teams demonstrate a more agile approach to technology, with leaders equipping their team with the optimal tools to do their job.  

They’re more likely, for example, to share sales data content in a sales enablement platform integrated within their CRM, or use messaging tools such as Slack or Teams, which offer greater collaboration and quicker communication between groups. In contrast, their less successful peers are more likely to rely on sending emails.  

When it comes to CRM systems, almost all sales teams use one. But top-performing teams use them regularly, making them more efficient, organized and responsive, resulting in better win rates, increased deal sizes and reduced close times.  

Grimshaw says if sales teams want to achieve top results, they need to be prepared for the emergence of new technologies and open to the value these may add. Particularly AI, which has been shown to save time and help teams sell more efficiently.  

“I’m a huge believer that emerging tech can do two things for sales teams: improve sales and reduce drag," says Grimshaw. "Both are hugely valuable to an organization. It’s important to have people in your team who don’t just view AI as a shiny object but understand how it can help them do a better job.” 

Invest in Training and Development  

Our 2024 Sales Maturity Survey also found that best-in-class sales teams receive more formal training. Formal training is accompanied by tools, reinforcement and accountability, and differs from ad-hoc coaching left to the discretion of managers.  

45% of top-performing sales teams provide their sellers with the tools, resources and knowledge they need for success, compared to just 30% of their peers.  

Best-in-class sales leaders spend more when investing in salespeople too, laying out on average $2,889 per salesperson annually, while their peers spend $1,661. They’re also twice as likely to supplement this training with dynamic manager-led coaching. However, it’s not as simple as hiring a coach and hosting a few training sessions. Training and development needs to be ingrained in the organizational culture, not just be a tick box exercise, says Grimshaw.  
“Coaching must have the support from the CEO downwards. If the culture of the organization is not one of performance coaching, it ends up being hollow,” he says.
If you get buy-in from the top, however, chances are that investing in training will pay off. Organizations who follow a dynamic level of coaching—formal coaching that incorporates data and analytics into the process—see gains in quota attainment (+14%), win rates (+15%), and even reduced voluntary attrition (18% lower). 

Collaborate with Customer Services 

Top-performing sales teams are more likely to collaborate with their customer services colleagues to make sure the customer experience is cohesive at every stage. 

Two thirds of best-in-class teams collaborate with customer services over the course of an account relationship, compared to 42% of their peers. And nearly half of the world’s top sales organizations also have a culture of accountability when it comes to delivering a high-quality customer experience, versus a much lower 25% in other organizations.  

Collaboration between sales and customer services teams makes sense, but that isn’t what’s happening across the board, says Grimshaw.  

“We all expect a seamless handover as consumers. Organizations that don’t do this well fall over very quickly. This might not stop the first sale. But it may stop sales two, three and four, which is where you make the real money.” Grimshaw adds that for effective collaboration between customer service and sales, you need people in your team who are collaborative and non-hierarchical. 

“Buyers don’t want to be sold to; they want to learn something. That means you need people in your team who are strategic thinkers and who can have strategic conversations with their clients.”

Mark Grimshaw, Senior Client Partner, Global Sales & Service Practice at Korn Ferry

Become Trusted Advisors  

Outstanding sales teams forge deep client relationships and are more likely to be perceived as strategic or trusted partners than merely an approved vendor or preferred supplier. 

Our research found nearly a quarter of best-in-class organizations were viewed as strategic contributors by clients, working with them to address long-term goals (only 13% of their peers were viewed so favorably). And more than twice as many top performers were considered actual partners in helping clients determine their future direction and the plans to get there.  

“Buyers don’t want to be sold to, they want to learn something,” says Grimshaw. “That means you need people in your team who are strategic thinkers and who are able to have strategic conversations with their clients.” 

This is shown in Korn Ferry's sales performance research. This year, teams labeled as trusted partners achieved 48% higher quota attainment and 25% higher win rates than those who were approved vendors.

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Cultivate a Best-in-Class Team 

Best-in-class organizations may not be immune to the challenges their peers face. But they respond to these pressures more effectively, by employing strategic practices that every sales team can learn from and implement. They don’t need to resort to discounting as a strategy to achieve their goals. 

Learn more about our solutions and how we can help you build a best-in-class sales team.

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