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4 Keys to Improving Sales Performance

While quite a bit of research has been published on what sellers need to do to achieve top sales performance, there’s relatively little on what separates top-performing sales organizations from the rest. To find out, the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research gathered data from 472 respondents representing companies with sales forces ranging in size from 10 sellers to 5,000 plus and published the results in the Top-Performing Sales Organization Benchmark Report.

The purpose of the study was to find out what the Top-Performing Sales Organizations do differently than The Rest, and what you need to do improve your sales performance. We considered the following when defining top performance:

  • High win rates
  • Meeting annual sales goals
  • Whether or not sales goals were challenging
  • Capturing maximum prices in line with value provided

The Top Performer group represents the top 20% of respondents to our study.

One surprising finding is just how much higher Top Performer win rates (from proposal to close) are compared to The Rest: 62% vs. 40% respectively. This represents a 22-percentage point difference. Even incremental improvements in win rate have a dramatic impact on revenue and profitability.

Here are 4 key takeaways from this research that stood out as critical for sales leaders and sellers alike to know to increase win rates, beat annual sales goals, and improve sales performance across your organization:

  1. Become a Value-Driving Sales Organization. Top Performers are much more likely to focus on driving maximum value for their customers than The Rest (81% versus 61%, respectively). Those companies that are Value-Driving are much more likely to grow revenue, have higher win rates, and have lower undesired sales turnover (i.e., they are able to retain top sales talent).

    Value makes a difference. The organizations that are able to create and deliver value, align their structures and processes to do so, and invest in sellers’ ability to be more valuable to their buyers, get better results.

  2. Optimize your sales process and opportunity management. Optimizing your sales process, improving sales opportunity approach, and communicating value are three of the top four sales initiative priorities for the year ahead. Top Performers are much more likely to have more mature sales processes than The Rest. Furthermore, 68% of Top Performers agree their sellers have the skills they need to drive and win sales opportunities, representing the highest sales skill area we asked about (only 50% of The Rest agree).

    Sales process and sales opportunity management exist to help sellers win sales. When companies have optimal processes for winning individual sales, they actually win more sales.

    Download our free white paper: Optimizing Sales Opportunity Management: 12 Critical Questions Sales Leaders Must Ask

  3. Prioritize sales skills development and training. Before we analyzed the data on the Top Performers, we assumed that stronger sales skills would correlate with better performance. Not only was this assumption correct, we were surprised with just how large the gap is between Top Performers and The Rest across sales skills. In each of the nine sales skill areas we studied, Top Performers are significantly more likely to have the sales skills they need to succeed.

    Furthermore, we found a significant correlation between sales training maturity, effectiveness, and investment to higher seller skill levels.

    We also found sales training investment and effectiveness significantly impact seller motivation and attitude. When sellers believe the organization is a strong partner with them and is investing in them to improve sales performance, they are more confident in themselves when selling and more motivated to achieve top performance. The end result: you get a team selling with hustle, passion, and intensity consistently over the long-term.

  4. Take the lead. We now know that improvements in key areas of the sales organization will drive win rates higher. But there is no one silver bullet. Based on our findings, most organizations have a lot of work to do to reach the top and it’s going to take leadership.

    Interestingly, more than half (57%) of The Rest already prioritize improving sales performance. However, Top Performers are much more likely to achieve their priorities once they are set (69% vs. 51%).

The leaders and organizations that do prioritize improving sales performance, make the right choices on where to focus, invest in their sellers, and can achieve what they set out to, will enjoy the reward of the ever increasing win rate.

It all starts with you.

Additional Reading
Infographic: 5 Sales Skills to Differentiate Your Team

In our recent Top-Performing Sales Organization study, we were particularly interested in the sales skills that stood out when sellers not only met their goals, but also believed their goals were challenging.

5 Sales Training Ideas to Improve Results (and Sustain Them)

By now you know that teaching people how to sell and become Top Performers takes more than a one- or two-day event. It takes ongoing reinforcement.

Sales training is a change initiative. Going through a single class in two days does not change the way sellers sell. Change happens over time, once sellers get back to work and start implementing newly learned skills.

The Missing Link to Increasing Sales Motivation

There's no denying that having a highly motivated sales team ready to give their full energy and effort day in and day out has a huge impact on your organization's success.

When it comes to sales motivation, companies commonly focus on compensation, bonuses, and incentives to get top performance out of their sales team. While compensation is important, it certainly is not the only, or even the main factor that drives sales motivation.

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