In a RAIN Group Center for Sales Research survey, we asked 423 sales and enablement leaders what their top priorities were for the year ahead. Their responses offer insight into the areas sales teams are actively trying to improve.
Whether you’re a seller or sales leader, use this list to set your own priorities, plan your next sales kickoff, rethink your sales process, and strategize for the future.
Top 10 Sales Priorities
1. Improve ability to communicate value
In modern sales, solution-based selling is just the price of entry. Sellers need to drive and communicate value throughout the sales process.
This means delving into buyer problems, providing insight and expertise into the buyer’s situation, and working collaboratively with them. In doing so, sellers become valuable resources buyers feel comfortable turning to for guidance.
Sales organizations that drive value for their buyers are more likely to grow revenue, have higher win rates, and retain top sellers.
2. Improve productivity of sellers and sales teams
Productivity and performance go hand in hand. When the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research asked sales managers to assess their teams on nine productivity behaviors, we found that top-performing teams are significantly more likely to score higher on each behavior.
Productivity starts when sellers are conscientious about their time. If you can identify how much time you spend chasing unqualified leads or working through tasks that can be automated or delegated, you can free up more time for impactful sales activities.
3. Increase business with existing accounts
Every sales team should have a key account management strategy in place. This involves creating a framework for identifying key accounts and a customized plan for each.
Existing accounts are a largely untapped opportunity—83% of companies don’t believe they have effective training for driving account growth. Be proactive with your accounts and enable sellers to discover opportunities to expand them.
4. Improve retention, repeat business, renewals
Retaining new customers is less costly than acquiring new ones. In addition, loyal customers can be relied on for referrals to create inroads with new buyers.
Many sellers don’t have a system in place to generate referrals, but by proactively reaching out and making yourself referral-ready, you can build credibility before your first conversation with new contacts.
5. Improve sales opportunity approach and planning
Sales opportunities aren’t created equal. You should have a method in place for determining which are worth pursuing and with what level of intensity. Use the CARE mnemonic device to prioritize your opportunities and find your focus:
- Competitive Position: Evaluate where you stand relative to competitors for a specific opportunity. What’s your relationship with the buyer compared to your competitors? What are your advantages and the buyer’s preferences?
- Attractiveness: How attractive is the opportunity overall? What’s in it for you? Is the profit margin favorable? A recurring revenue stream? Potential for growth? Marquee logo?
- Relationship Strength: How does the buyer perceive you? Does the buyer see you as a partner? How does the buyer view the value you deliver and their relationship with you?
- Effort to Win: How much do you have to invest to win? Time, finances, resources, and even cultural fit can influence how difficult a sale will be to win.
6. Improve sellers' ability to inspire with ideas
Buyers want new ideas, and sellers aren’t delivering. Seventy-one percent of buyers want to talk to sellers early in the buying process, when they’re considering new possibilities. The best sellers know this; the factor that most separates sales winners and second-place finishers is that winners educate buyers with new perspectives.
Two things are clear:
- Sellers should be proactive in connecting with buyers early and often. If you wait until a buyer has a firm idea in mind of what they want, it’ll be harder to differentiate and win the sale.
- Sellers should invest time and effort into customizing their offerings to meet buyers’ needs and communicate new ideas to buyers.
7. Win more against difficult competitors
The best sellers craft a value proposition that sets them apart from the competition.
Making an effective case to a buyer starts with the fundamentals of storytelling. Storytelling in sales follows a specific pattern that can be adapted to any sale.
The structure of a Convincing Story goes like this:
- Change is Undeniable: Build rapport and establish credibility by demonstrating insight into the buyer’s world. Call attention to how the buyer’s world has changed, such as influential trends or technology that change the game.
- It’s Success or Failure: If change is inevitable, what happens if the buyer fails to adapt? Build the stakes and open their eyes to the possibilities of moving forward.
- Tantalizing Opportunity: Communicate excitement around new possibilities, buyer impact, and results. Be prepared to present an ROI case and realize that impact goes beyond financial gain. Sometimes buyers use an emotional impact case—such as fear of lagging behind the competition or missing out on a valuable opportunity—to rationalize and sell their decisions internally.
- Breakthrough: Outline the specifics of your solution and demonstrate how you’ve made it work in the past. Give the buyer a look at what they can achieve with you.
- It’ll Work: Collaborate with the buyer to plan next steps, ask questions, and assuage fears about risks. Closing a sale is a big step, and you should work to make it as easy as possible for the buyer.
8. Improve sales manager effectiveness
For sales leaders to inspire performance among their sellers, it’s not enough for them to simply manage—organize, execute, and monitor. They must coach as well.
Coaching is done directly with sellers. It’s a two-way interaction that happens collaboratively. And it’s critically important that sellers believe their manager is effective at helping them achieve strong sales performance. In fact, top performers are 83% more likely to report having extremely or very effective sales managers.
The effective sales manager is the lynchpin making sure motivation and productivity happen across the sales team.
9. Drive new logos/new accounts won
Seventy-five percent of purchases are strategic, meaning buyers don’t have to buy but see an opportunity in doing so. With that in mind, sellers should be working to bring new ideas to sellers and craft solutions that meet their needs. The following are among the top factors that influence buyer purchasing decisions:
- Focus on value
- New ideas and perspectives from sellers
- Insight from sellers about the industry or market
- Sellers deepen understanding of needs
10. Optimize our sales process
The best sales organizations have established sales processes and regularly evaluate each stage of the process. When sellers have clear direction and tactics for each stage, they feel confident guiding the sale forward.
Understanding and optimizing the sales process requires a knowledge of each stage of the process for buyers and sellers alike. Where is the buyer in the decision process? What does the seller need to do to progress to the next phase?
Top 10 Sales Priorities Visualized
Do you share any of these priorities? Our infographic below includes research-backed tips on how to tackle them—and statistics supporting each point.
RAIN Group can help you tackle your priorities and implement winning strategies. Get started today. >>