What challenges do sales enablement and sales leaders encounter most often? Which ones are most difficult to tackle?
What are the top sales priorities for the next 12 months? How should they be addressed to ensure they're achieved?
To find out the answers to these questions, we surveyed 423 sales, enablement, and company leaders.
The results are fascinating. As sales researchers and analysts, it helps us to see not only what's changed, but also what's changing right now and where the industry is going.
Delivering value, making the ROI case, retaining customers, growing accounts, recruiting top talent, forecasting, implementing a sales process, utilizing sales technologies, winning against the competition, developing sales managers, coaching sales teams, generating leads, onboarding, productivity, compensation...
There's no shortage of challenges sales leaders face.
Recently, we surveyed 423 sales, enablement, and company leaders to uncover their top challenges and priorities, and how they approach them.
What are the top challenges sales enablement and sales leaders face today? What are their top priorities?
Which are most difficult to tackle? How should they be tackled?
To find out, we asked 423 sales, enablement, and company leaders these questions.
This report contains our findings, including 3 initiatives that will help sales and enablement leaders address their challenges and achieve their priorities.
"Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach him to fish, and he'll eat for a lifetime."
This is a popular axiom in the coaching world.
You'll find it everywhere. Here it is in a CBS News story:
"Myth 8: Professional coaches tell their clients what to do and give them advice.
Fact: Bad or inexperienced coaches tell their clients what to do and are constantly giving advice. Good coaches do not…Instead, coaches help their clients explore and come up with the best choices for them based on where they are and the client's vision for their future. Coaches are experts at the process of changing behavior, which is much more valuable than giving instructions."
The most popular and effective diets and workout routines—ones that lead to the most dramatic changes—have specific guidelines and rules for how to follow the system.
No such system existed for sales—until now.
And, it works.
Most leaders agree the opportunity to improve sales performance through coaching is tremendous, including:
These leaders are turning to coaching because coaching is an increasingly popular—and increasingly proven—method of improving performance.
The state of sales management in many companies is disturbing. Consider these stats from our Top-Performing Sales Organization study:
Almost 7 out of every 10 sales managers do not have the skills they need to do their jobs effectively! Astounding. It's certainly understandable, though. Sales managers are directed, by the very definition of sales management, down the wrong path.
Attracting and retaining top sales talent is a huge challenge for many companies.
If you want to take your sales results to the next level, your organization must have the right people in the right roles, performing at a high level day in and day out. You also need the right management team with an effective process in place to ensure this all happens.
It may not be considered the most glamorous aspect of sales management, but as business and technology have evolved, it’s widely acknowledged that getting sales operations right is imperative for a smoothly run, effective sales organization. On his blog, Matt Heinz of Heinz Marketing even hails it as “THE most important and unsung hero for sales teams.”
In sales forces of any size, changing the sales organization structure is an uphill battle. Structure relates to the organization of selling at the company, including sales compensation, territory design, account and lead assignments, and more.
Sales performance analysis is typically quite involved and complex. It’s no easy task to figure out how to improve, change, or build a sales strategy. But for those sales leaders who are taking a longer-term view and looking into sales performance optimization, a performance analysis is a necessary precursor.
Most sellers and sales leaders are often asking themselves: "Is my win rate any good?"
Win rate is one of the most basic measures of your sales success, so it’s only natural to want to benchmark your performance against the average to see how you stack up.
"What gets measured gets managed."
– Peter Drucker
Only when you have a good sense of what's going on in your organization can you decide which buttons to push to make the greatest improvements. Even small efforts to track key sales metrics can quickly drive better results.
Sales training is a multibillion-dollar business. In the U.S. alone, it is estimated to be more than $5 billion (according to Dave Stein in Sales Training: The 120-Day Curse from ES Research Group). Yet, also according to Stein, between 85% and 90% of sales training has no lasting impact after 120 days. If we do the math, that amounts to somewhere north of $4.25 billion of unproductive training.
More than ever, sales teams are struggling with unqualified leads, missed sales goals, and lost opportunities. Increasingly, company and sales leaders are turning to coaching as a solution.
And, why not? Executive and personal-effectiveness coaching have historically yielded great results. According to the International Coach Federation, the average company can expect a return of 7 times the initial investment in coaching.*
Shouldn’t the same be expected from sales coaching?
Sales coaching has become a hot topic in business as more and more companies see a significant return on investment. However, where executive coaching and personal-effectiveness coaching yield positive results, sales coaching lags behind. Whether it's a lack of time, inconsistent coaching conversations, unavailability of tools and resources to succeed, or weak coaching skills, sales managers and leaders simply aren't producing strong results.
Sales coaching—working one-on-one or in small groups with firms and individuals in a highly focused manner to help them increase effectiveness, revenues, and sales—is a large part of what I do on a day-to-day basis.
Done right, it’s one of the most powerful, impactful ways to increase revenue and boost individual or group performance.
Talking about the differences between men and women is a tricky thing. But we need to deal with tricky things if we want to be good sales managers.
The recently published book, Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, has a nugget of knowledge every sales manager should know. As the title suggests, it’s about the science behind why some people win and others struggle.
At RAIN Group, our advice to organizations looking to create a culture of sustained, serious selling: Make sure the bucket doesn't have any holes or it won't hold water.
Time and again we see organizations doing a certain percent of what they need to do to help their teams achieve more sales success and increase sales performance (our favorite, “Can you come in and give a 90-minute speech that will charge up the team for the next 12 months?”), but rarely do they put forth 100% effort. If you're only doing 70% of what you need to do to increase sales performance, you don't get 70% results; you get much less. Like patching a leak in the bottom of a boat, if you don't patch it 100%, it still takes on water.
Failure is popular these days.
I’ve been reading (and recommend) The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. In The Lean Startup, Ries covers a number of concepts to help entrepreneurs and their new ventures to succeed. One such concept is ‘Validated Learning’.
Salespeople know what they sell, and they sell what they know. When it comes to salesperson knowledge, people know too little about their particular industry, their customers’ needs, and their company’s products and services to be able to sell the full suite of solutions. Without this knowledge they can’t:
Indeed, they can’t and don’t hold masterful sales conversations with customers.
The result: Lost sales and missed cross-selling opportunities.
I have been truly obsessed with baseball lately. My beloved Red Sox folded faster than the deck chairs on the Titanic in one of the greatest meltdowns in all of baseball history. And the talk shows are full of Danny from Quincy and Al from Everett suggesting changes that need to happen in the off-season. One fan suggested freshening up the pitching staff by having relievers start games, starters come in to relieve, and closers (generally relegated to the ninth inning) pitch from the seventh on. What a disaster that would be!
This summer, I finally decided I was ready to go from the junior varsity batting cages (65 mph) to the high school varsity cages (80 mph). Boy was that a mistake. I did foul one off, but the experience was mostly entertainment for my sons and their college friends. Later that day, I checked to see just how fast my reaction time had to be to square up on an 80 mph pitch. My findings: less than ½ second. I had no chance. I can’t imagine facing Justin Verlander and his 100 mph pitches.
Fast forward (no pun intended) to yesterday. I was in Chicago speaking to a client about his sales team. In his view, they have the necessary selling skills, the desire to sell, and the motivation to sell. But something is missing. He knows they can be doing so much more. As we dug deeper, it became clear that they can’t catch up to the fastball.
First of all, the products and services they sell are complex and require a great deal of sales knowledge to understand. My client does provide extensive “product” training and when quizzed some of his salespeople will get most of it right…and most will get some of it right. Good, but not good enough. Buyers are picky, looking for guidance, and want to buy from experts. Knowing some of it only sometimes…strike one!
There are thousands of ways to kill a sale. Some are obvious like not showing up to a meeting prepared, not following up, not listening, not establishing trust, going to proposal too early, not speaking to decision makers... the list goes on. These are all pretty easy to see and with some work and practice can be overcome.
Then there are the killers that hide beneath the surface that many sellers and sales managers do not even know exist. They are the sales weaknesses that are a part of an individual salesperson’s makeup that act like weights pulling them down.
Your sales staff is underperforming, but you can't figure out why. You're pretty sure that you've hired the best possible talent, but some days it seems like your sales staff is the gang that can’t shoot straight. Where did you go wrong?