Each year, our goal for the RAIN Group Sales Blog is to provide you with research, ideas, and insight to help you unleash sales potential.
From blog posts to new white papers, ebooks, infographics, webinars, and research, we've published a treasure trove of content in 2018 to help sellers, sales managers, and sales leaders reach top performance.
Below we've rounded up our most popular content from the year that will guide you on your path towards sales success.
The only thing we know about the future is that it will be different.
With the New Year less than a month away, it's time to think about what will be different in the year ahead.
Where will you direct your focus to reach your goals and grow your sales? What are the opportunities for your organization? What do you need to do to seize them?
In this webinar, RAIN Group President Mike Schultz shares data from the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research on sellers, sales leaders, and buyers, uncovering the biggest opportunities for sales growth in the year ahead.
Seventy-five percent of purchases are strategic, meaning the buyer is making an investment and not required to buy.
Yet only 14% of buyers discover these strategic opportunities from sellers.
If you want to grow your sales in 2019, the opportunities are out there and very few sellers are taking advantage.
How can you build a team that closes this gap?
In this infographic, we share the biggest opportunities—according to our research from both buyers and sellers—for sales growth in the year ahead.
Setting goals is relatively easy. You think about what you want to achieve in a certain period of time and set a specific and measurable metric around it. For example:
Reaching your goals, however, is a bit more complicated.
You need to create a goal and action plan to set expectations and to hold yourself accountable.
In our Goal Setting Worksheet, we outline a 5-step process that not only helps you set goals, but also gives you the best chance to reach them. Here we provide some goal setting examples, accompanied by visuals from the worksheet, to give you a sense of how to set goals and put actions in place to achieve them.
If you've worked in sales for any length of time, you've likely heard the phrase, "Sales is a numbers game." It's true. A profitable sales organization relies on the careful analysis of success metrics, performance data, and sales reports.
If your sales reports are incomplete, inaccurate, or just plain wrong, the outcome is simple: misguided and ineffective selling.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent reporting mistakes before they impact your sales team. Following are 3 factors to consider that will help you generate more accurate sales reports and execute a more profitable sales strategy.
Sales are won and lost based on the conversations you have with your buyers.
You need to differentiate yourself in the sales process by asking great sales questions—questions that inspire buyers to think differently, talk about their hopes and desires, and build their relationship with you. Otherwise, your buyers are going to have the same conversation with you that they're having with your competitors.
In this on-demand webinar, RAIN Group EMEA Practice Director Ago Cluytens shares the specific sales questioning techniques and skills you need to lead the most effective sales conversations and close more sales.
To find and win business consistently, your sellers need to have the right mix of sales skills across the sales process, from filling the front-end of the pipeline to growing accounts. Too many sales teams have significant skill deficits preventing them from turning their potential for sales growth into reality.
In The Top-Performing Sales Organization research initiative, we looked at the differences between Top Performers and The Rest across sales skills and knowledge needed to drive sales performance. The gaps in skills are eye-opening.
Sell the product benefits. Book the demo. Get them a free trial. Present the pitch deck.
We hear these ideas from sales pundits all the time. We want buyers to experience our product or service and see everything it has to offer. We develop long presentations and demos showing them the ins and outs and the numerous fancy, flashy things our offering can do for them.
But does it matter?
Or, at least not as much as most people think.
With more sales going through purchasing departments, you're bound to face price pressure on almost every opportunity. They'll expect you to discount.
Nearly all organizations negotiate or discount their stated list price to some extent. In fact, in our Top-Performing Sales Organization study, we asked about the frequency in which companies discount.
Results showed that only 7% of organizations never discount.
There is no magic way to achieve sales success.
However, there is one significant concept that helps the companies and sellers who embrace it—those who make it part of the fabric of who they are and who their sales organization is—experience wildly successful sales results.
If you want to boost sales and join their ranks, you must become a Value-Driving Sales Organization.
Value-Driving Sales Organizations have significantly higher win rates and revenue growth, and lower undesired turnover. They not only win more at higher margins, but also retain top sales talent.
To succeed in sales, you need to have the right skills. You must be able to lead masterful sales conversations, manage opportunities, uncover needs, negotiate the best deals, fill the pipeline, develop relationships, manage sellers, and the list goes on.
With the laundry list of skills needed, what skills are sellers most likely to have?
In our The Top-Performing Sales Organization study, the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research asked, across a number of areas, if sellers have the skills they need to find and win business consistently and at a high level. Below are the skills that rose to the top and fell to the bottom of the list:
Atul Gawande, a surgeon at Brigham and Women's hospital in Boston and writer for the New York Times, told a story of a man who came into the emergency room with a stab wound, "It was a single wound, about an inch in size, in his belly."
The wound didn't appear life threatening, but after about 10 minutes his condition worsened.
When they got him on the table and opened him up, they found the wound was a foot deep (he was a pretty big guy) and cut his aorta. When they asked how the stabbing occurred, he told them it happened at a Halloween party and the other guy had a bayonet.
The doctors reflected and determined that if they knew it was a bayonet, they would have acted differently from the start.
Gawande uses this example—a simple miscommunication with big implications—to illustrate the central case in his book, The Checklist Manifesto. Even after 20 years of practice, doctors miss things. They make mistakes. And it's all due to complexity.
There are a lot of opinions on what to do to drive sales success. I Googled the topic and found over 60 distinct pieces of advice for what to do and not to do, but most of the advice was, indeed, just opinions. Any references to research or proven success was tangential at best.
You deserve better!
Based on our work with B2B sales teams around the globe, as well as data from the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research, where we relentlessly study what the top sellers do and what buyers are looking for, we have gleaned 9 keys to achieving success in today's B2B sales environment:
When you're considering sales training, it's important to know what results you want to drive. Before any initiative, you need to answer one simple question:
What do we want to achieve?
There are many possible targeted outcomes of sales training from growing revenue and improving margins to increasing the average size of sale and growing accounts. Make sure whatever sales training initiatives you choose match up with your desired outcomes.
As you think about your own sales training efforts, consider these possible results and how to achieve them.
A proper sales and marketing strategy involves more than just running some ads and cold-calling a list of prospects. Developing the right strategy is a process that requires research to discover who your prime sales prospects are, what motivates their purchasing, and how your firm fits in the marketplace. The data your research provides is what will drive your sales and marketing strategy. With the right plan, growth and profitability are predictable and controllable.
Effective sales and marketing requires talent, expertise, effort, and consistency. If that doesn't exist inside your organization, then it's important that you find an outside resource that can help you develop and implement your strategy.
Whether your sales and marketing strategy is developed internally or externally, these 5 tips will help ensure that it is both effective and efficient:
It's the beginning of the year. It's crunch time for 2018 planning. Almost everyone is evaluating what worked and what didn't and building goals and plans for the year ahead. If you're not, it's time to take a long, hard look at your own performance over the last year and find ways to not just hit your goals but to exceed them for 2018.
There are many questions you must ask yourself to prepare. What are you going to do differently? What are you going to improve? How, specifically, are you going to drive sales? Are you going to focus on generating new business? On improving your close rate? On growing your existing accounts?
In our Top-Performing Sales Organization research, we studied 75 factors related to the sales organization. We wanted to know what Top Performers do differently than The Rest to achieve superior results.
We've shared what separates the best sales organizations from the rest, but what we haven't shared is what most sales organizations neglect, and the impact it can have on your results. One factor in particular was most apparent: effective sales training.
Each year, our goal for the RAIN Group Sales Blog is to provide you with research, ideas, and insight to help you unleash your sales potential.
From regular blog posts to new white papers, ebooks, webinars, and research, we have, and will continue to release valuable insight on what you as a seller can do to set yourself apart from the rest.
In case you missed some of our new sales content this year, we've compiled a list of our top 10 most popular content pieces from 2017 that will guide you on your path towards sales success.
Buying in the last few years has changed more than ever. Buyers are more educated, they're distracted and short on time, and options are endless.
Sellers and sales organizations are struggling to keep up.
There are specific actions that Top Performers and Top-Performing Sales Organizations take that allow them to achieve superior results.
To optimize your sales force, you need to have a highly-motivated team bringing their "A game" day in and day out.
Often times, it's up to the sales managers to make sure their team maintains this positive and results-driven attitude on a daily basis. According to our Top-Performing Sales Organization research, 55% of Top Performers agree that managers are effective at creating and sustaining maximum selling energy, compared to only 32% of The Rest.
But management is not the only key influence on sales motivation.
Most sales are won and lost based on one key factor: You.
You hold the keys to your sales success. Competitors don’t win because their offerings are more impressive. They win because they deliver a superior sales experience.
You can too.
If you want to maximize time, you must find more of it, and choose what you do with it carefully. We all have the same 168 hours a week to work with. Some people make the most of them, others don't.
Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.
- Henry David Thoreau
Almost everyone at some point in their career will toy with adopting some kind of time-management system. Few stick with it. The challenge is that too many time-management systems focus too deeply on the activity level—what to do first, what to do next, what the priority order is—without paying enough attention to the bigger picture. Simply viewing the world through the lens of urgent vs. important is not enough.
When you look at your pipeline, do you see opportunities that just won't move?
Do days, weeks, and even months go by with the same opportunities staring back at you?
Worse yet, are you losing more of your opportunities than you'd like?
No doubt, these are the same opportunities that would make the biggest difference to your quarterly results if only you could crack the code.
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.
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.
Ridiculous Upside is the name of a well-known blog that covers up-and-coming basketball players that could make the NBA, but need further development to reach their potential. Too bad that the basketball bloggers took the name, because ridiculous upside is a great way to describe the untapped potential hiding in most every company's existing accounts.
The more sophisticated and advanced sellers become, the more they make selling about conversations and collaboration, not presentations and pitching. Even their presentations become interactive collaborations when done right.
Throughout each year, we make it our goal for the RAIN Group Sales Blog to provide you with quality content pieces to help you unleash your sales potential.
With four new white papers on the books, and brand new research published on Top-Performing Sales Organizations and Strategic Account Management, we've released valuable insight on what you as a seller can do to set yourself apart from the rest.
In case you missed some of our new sales content this year, we've put together a list of our top 10 most popular content pieces from 2016 that will guide you towards sales success.
With 2017 right around the corner, most organizations are building strategies to increase revenue, win more sales, and beat their targets in the year ahead.
But with increased competition and product/service commoditization, those same organizations either risk trying "the new, shiny trend" or same-old sales training that just doesn't cut it.
Sales enablement is one of the eight categories of the Sales Performance WheelSM that we study when analyzing what drives sales performance. This category focuses on the different ways in which supporting sellers to be most effective allows them to reach their full potential, thus improving the organization's sales performance.
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.”
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.
To succeed in sales, you need to have the right skills. You have to be able to lead masterful sales conversations, manage opportunities, uncover needs, negotiate the best deals, fill the pipeline, develop relationships, manage sellers, and the list goes on.
With the laundry list of sales skills needed, which are most important?
In our recent Top-Performing Sales Organization study, the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research asked 472 sales executives and sellers representing companies with sales forces ranging from 10 sellers to 5,000+ if sellers have the skills they need to find and win business consistently and at a high level.
We then looked at the correlation between sales skills and whether or not a sales organization met its sales goal or quota.
Most sellers have a quota, or a sales performance target, that is set by the sales leaders at their organization.
When it comes to setting these sales goals, there are two general philosophies organizations tend to take:
One of our primary goals at the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research is to find out what real sellers and sales leaders are doing to achieve their results. With What Sales Winners Do Differently, we wanted to know what individual sellers do to win sales opportunities compared to those who come in second place.
As they say, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. If you want to drive sales performance at a company, you can focus on all sorts of tactical areas—from people and training to enablement and operations—but none of these address the fundamental questions: Where are we going? What are we doing to achieve our goals? Who will lead us there?
Two sellers are talking at the end of the day. One turns to the other and asks, “How was your day?”
“I had a great day,” the second seller says. “I sent out two proposals this morning, had a great first meeting with a new potential buyer, and finally got a meeting with a decision maker I’ve been trying to reach for a year!” Feeling proud, he asks the first seller, “How was your day?”
People often ask us, “What should we do to drive our sales success?”
It’s a complicated question. It’s not easy to decide what to tackle, when to tackle it, what results the organization should be targeting, where you can get the biggest bang for your buck, and what it really takes to get those results without further analysis.
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.
In the mid-1990s, a fairly common sales strategy was to give a seller a desk, a phone, a business directory, and say, "Go."
Fast forward to today, and selling has become significantly more complex. Companies report ever-increasing challenges regarding product and service commoditization, proliferation of competition, and more informed and sophisticated buyers.
Everyone wants to know: what is the silver bullet to sales success? What's the one thing that will magically bring in more sales and grow your accounts?
Well, there is no one silver bullet. Many factors influence top sales performance. But there is one word that can transform your sales results: Value.
Top-Performing companies are winning 62% of their sales opportunities. The Rest? Only 40%.
While quite a bit of research has been published on what separates top sellers from the rest, there’s relatively little on what organizations are doing to achieve high win rates.
Ever think you were going to win a big sale...and then you lost? Lost to the competition when you really should have won? Lost to no decision because the buyer didn't see the value or the urgency?
At RAIN Group it's our mission to help you unleash your sales potential. Through the RAIN Selling blog we strive to bring you the freshest sales research, tips, and strategies that will help you make breakthroughs in your sales results. In 2014 we did just that and we did it with gusto.
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.