What do sellers see as challenging?
What do sales leaders see as challenging for sellers?
Where are these two groups aligned in their thinking and where are they divided?
Do these differences matter?
To find out, we asked 423 sales leaders and 129 sellers about the challenges sellers face and compared their answers.
Sales success doesn't just happen. Sales winners aren't born with special knowledge or abilities that others don't have. Maybe it looks that way when you watch top performers from the outside, but they've worked to hone their skills, constantly learning and improving.
And guess what? The secret to sales success isn't, as Blake says in Glengarry Glen Ross, to "Always be closing."
The secret to success is all in the preparation.
How would you rate your organization's sales process?
World-class sales processes aren't built overnight. And they never remain stagnant.
They are measured and improved regularly, with best practices for strategies and tactics outlined clearly across all six phases of the sales cycle.
"Can you send me a proposal?"
Sellers love to hear these 6 words from buyers. Once you submit a proposal, you can move forward to the win.
While a good proposal summarizes what you've already discussed and agreed to, a proposal is, at its core, a persuasive document that communicates to buyers why they should buy, and why they should buy from you.
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.
Too many sellers have the following problems:
In "How to Clear Your Pipeline of Dead Wood," we shared how to make your pipeline real and manageable. Here, you’ll find a framework that will allow you and your colleagues to define and focus on the best sales opportunities with clarity and confidence.
Sellers often treat their pipeline opportunities the same. They define need, qualify, propose, present, and wait for a win or loss. Maybe a few bubble up for more focus, but it's not always the right ones.
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.
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 an all too familiar story. A seller's pipeline looks full! Bursting. Exciting. It stays like that for 2 months, 5 months, 10 months… more keeps going in. Nothing comes out.
It looked great, but it wasn't great. Not even good. Too many sellers have lots of opportunities in their pipelines that shouldn't be there. Neither managers nor sellers want mirage pipelines with visions of promised lands that simply aren't there.
Why are some companies able to consistently grow their strategic accounts and maximize value while others struggle? This is a question that confounds many a sales leader.
Some think it is largely related to the strength of product and service offerings. The companies that grow their accounts the most must have superior offerings that keep customers coming back for more, right?
In our study, The Top-Performing Sales Organization, 40% of respondents said "Improving sales opportunity approach and planning" is a top priority for the next year. Along with two related initiatives—improving ability to communicate value (41%) and optimizing sales processes (32%)—these represented three of the top four sales initiative priorities altogether.1
Most sales training and advice is based on a fundamental premise: the seller is in control.
Think about it: a lot of what's taught focuses on what sellers should be doing to persuade, convince, and drive buyers toward closing a sale. The seller is responsible for bringing the deal to a close. Therefore the seller must be in control.
Client loyalty is tough to earn.
Fred Reichheld, author of The Loyalty Effect and creator of the Net Promoter System, found that most corporations lose 50% of their customers every 5 years, 50% of employees in 4 years, and 50% of investors in less than one year.
"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.
I spend a good percentage of my time selling. I also spend a lot of time coaching and training sales teams. One question that comes up time after time is, "How do I shorten the sales cycle?"
My quick response is usually, "Have more in each stage of your pipeline at all times, so the sales cycle just seems shorter."
Of course, that rarely makes anyone feel better. So based on our experience, here are 10 rules that will help make your sales process move more quickly:
When buyers buy something, one of two things must be true:
1. They are required to buy.
2. They want to buy.
In this post we noted we often get questions about The Challenger Sale. Perhaps the most common question we get is, “What do you think of the five seller profiles?”
The five seller profiles, as defined by the authors of The Challenger Sale in “Selling Is Not About Relationships,” a Harvard Business Review blog post, are as follows. We list them in order by what they found in their study to be least to most likely to be a top performer in sales.
See an article about differentiation and it’s likely to be about marketing. Differentiation often starts with marketing, but it’s in the selling process that it truly comes alive.
Here at RAIN Group, we recently analyzed just over 700 business-to-business sales made to buyers who represent $3.1 billion in annual purchases from industries with complex sales.
The purpose of the research was to find out what sales winners do differently in the selling process compared to the sellers that didn’t win, but who came in second place.
Achieving your goals isn't a slam dunk. Can you do what it takes to meet them?
I recently started going to a personal trainer. At the beginning of our very first session, she asked, "So, what are you trying to accomplish?"
"To get in better shape?", I hesitantly answered.
"Well, without a clear goal, you will not be able to see your progress, you will lose momentum, and we won't be able to see if the training is paying off."
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.
Wouldn’t it be great if there were a silver bullet that would make you more successful in your sales efforts? One thing you could do to really boost your sales success?
I hate to disappoint, but the reality is, there is no silver bullet. Sales success takes hard work and commitment along with skill and savvy.
While there is no one thing that will work for you, there are a number of things you can do to help boost your overall success. You can start by following these 10 sales tips.
Are you giving yourself a chance of a bullseye?
“Like a poor marksman you keep…missing…the target. Kaaahhhnnn!!!”
- Admiral James T. Kirk
There's one sales person I know that worked very hard, but he always seemed to be middle of the pack when it came to results. He had good skills and he was a good guy, but the results just weren’t there.
I had the pleasure of meeting Ed Rendell when he was the mayor of Philadelphia. He was pointed and direct, quite different from the other politicians I have met over the years. So it came as little surprise when early this winter, Rendell, then Governor of Pennsylvania, called NFL officials “wimps” for canceling a game between the Eagles and Vikings due to snow.
If you don't know your destination, any road will get you there. When prospects ask for a formal proposal, they are telling you their desired destination: a business relationship with you. And they're asking you to answer the question, “What road do we take to get there?”
Since it's your job to give directions, you want to tell them the straightest, shortest, and easiest route. After all, you don't want them to get lost along the way, or so tired on the path that they give up before they get to the end.