RAIN Group Sales Blog

Your source for sales advice, tips, research, and insights to unleash sales potential.

If you’re a sales or enablement leader charged with training sales managers, you’ve likely been asked, or asked yourself, “What are the core skills and competencies our sales managers need to effectively coach and develop our sellers?” As you dig into this question, developing effective sales managers can seem like a daunting challenge.

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Are you finding the sales cycle is getting longer? Increases in loss to the dreaded “no decision”? Difficulty selling in an uncertain economy? You're not alone.

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There's such a thing as being too close to a problem, and we see that as a frequent challenge when it comes to improving sales performance. In our recent study of nearly 400 sellers and sales leaders, we asked sellers how challenging they find various selling skills/behaviors. For the 16 skills we asked about, less than 55% of sellers found each very challenging. And when we take out the two outliers (prospecting and winning large deals), that number drops to less than 38%. Is it simply that these skills come easily to sellers? Are they so well trained that they're able to overcome obstacles and excel? Not exactly. When juxtaposed with buyer survey data, we see a significant gap between what sellers find challenging and how effective buyers believe they are.

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How is the current state of the sales environment impacting sales organizations? Which sales and enablement issues are most challenging for leaders 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 322 sales, enablement, and company leaders globally, following up on our original research conducted in 2019.

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You’d be hard-pressed to find an organization that didn’t want its sellers and sales teams to meet their goals in the face of challenging conditions and do so with high win rates and strong pricing. Sales training is one obvious way for organizations to build such teams. While sales training often fails to meet its promise, our research shows that highly effective sales training is correlated with higher win rates, sales goal attainment, and premium pricing.

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Sales leaders with a finger on the pulse of B2B sales know that marked change is underway. Some changes have been spurred by the global pandemic, with others hastened by the uncertainty of the economy. For their new report, Future of B2B Sales: The Big Reframe, authors at McKinsey & Company spoke to more than 50 heads of sales across a range of industries and geographies to better understand the shift in the B2B sales environment. They identified 5 key themes:

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2023 is shaping up to be a challenging year for sellers. With economic uncertainty and organizations everywhere tightening their belts, sellers are hard-pressed to stay efficient and keep revenue flowing. So how can you and your sellers stay on track and cross the finish line strong? There are plenty of ways to get the most out of the team you already have. In this infographic, you'll find 8 areas of focus for 2023, each a category where Top-Performing Sellers excel compared to The Rest. Only 18.7% of sellers qualify as Top Performers, so there's always room for improvement!

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Interesting tidbit: the concept of a sales funnel dates back to Chicago meatpackers in the late nineteenth century. Even then, the Armours, Swifts, and Morrises of the world were tinkering with the best strategies for selling their products to other businesses. In many ways, the fundamental challenges of selling remain the same for the modern B2B sales funnel. That is, how to strike a chord with potential buyers—how to find alignment, create value, and deliver—instead of putting them through the same generic steps.

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During a now-famous interview on the Pierre Berton Show in 1971, Bruce Lee shared a simple philosophy: “be like water.” As fitting as Lee’s advice is for sellers, “be like a sponge” works just as well. To stay ahead, sales teams must continuously absorb new information and develop skills. Ongoing training and coaching and sustained effort over time is crucial. Otherwise, sellers (and their managers) risk not reaching their potential. Fortunately, there are sales training techniques that even the most experienced teams will soak up.

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TL;DR? Download the PDF and save it for later. If you’re responsible for designing or implementing sales training for your organization, you know the effectiveness of training varies greatly. It might not be implemented properly, land well with participants, be relevant to sellers’ daily work, or it might be forgotten completely in the days and weeks following the training. Sales training fails more often than it succeeds. But, for those who get it right, the payoffs are substantial.

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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.

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There’s simply not enough time in the day to focus on every essential skill needed to succeed in sales. While sales teams must prioritize skills development, it’s important to identify which skills could have the biggest impact on your sales results.

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Whether you're trying to get better at running or improve your sales skills, you need to choose what to focus on to get the best results. We can't give you the skills to run a marathon, but we can share the 11 skills that represent the largest skill gaps between Top Performers and The Rest to help you improve your sales efforts. We uncovered these skills and behaviors in a recent global study of 1,004 sellers and sales managers.

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In a hybrid sales environment, you need to be able to meet and engage buyers wherever they are. If you want to generate the best opportunities and set yourself up for success, you need to prepare. And there’s no better way to prepare than by using data-backed findings on what’s working (or not!) for the most successful sellers.

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In What Sales Winners Do Differently, we studied over 700 purchases from the perspective of business-to-business buyers to find out what really happened in their buying experiences.

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Whether you work on a sale for 9 hours, 9 weeks, or 9 months, when you get to the negotiation phase of the selling process, you can lose the sale in an instant. And even for those sellers who win the sale, the negotiated outcome may not be the best.

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Almost all sellers at some point in their career will consider adopting a time management system to improve their productivity. Few stick with it. The challenge is that 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. We studied the habits of extremely productive people—we call them The XP—in a global productivity research study with more than 5,000 participants to date. Not only did we learn their habits, we found that the most productive people are also more satisfied with their jobs, more likely to be top performers, and are happier.

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Note: You can download this article as a PDF to save it for later! Developing relationships, collaborating online, leading virtual sales conversations, gaining and keeping attention, leveraging technology, making the ROI case, delivering value—these are hard to do regardless of the sales and economic environment. But, do these become more difficult when selling virtually versus face-to-face? Are some areas more difficult for sellers than others? What influences buyers’ purchase decisions when buying virtually?

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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, and manage sellers. And today, you need to be successful in doing all of this with no face-to-face interaction. That's a lot to have to master.

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Developing relationships, collaborating online, leading virtual sales conversations, gaining and keeping attention, leveraging technology, making the ROI case, delivering value—these are challenging regardless of the selling and economic environment. But are they more difficult in a down economy while many sellers are transitioning to virtual sales? Are some sales skills more difficult to apply than others in a virtual environment? Where are sellers succeeding and failing according to buyers today?

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It’s never been more important for your sales organization to be firing on all thrusters. As buyers are tightening their purse strings and uncertainty in both health and economic spheres are plaguing companies, you need an optimized sales organization. In our Top-Performing Sales Organization research, we studied what the organizations with the highest win rates, revenue growth, and sales goal achievement do differently that allow them to achieve these results.

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Everyone says, "Sell value, drive value, make sure buyers both perceive and receive exceptional value from you, and your sales teams will be more successful."

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How many attempts does it take to break through to busy buyers? What offers are most accepted? Do cold meetings convert to new business? In our new benchmark report, Top Performance in Sales Prospecting, the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research uncovered the answers to these critical prospecting questions. With data from 488 B2B buyers and 489 sellers, we've cracked the code on what works in prospecting today. This infographic highlights 30 must-know stats from our research and analysis and what they mean for sellers in today's world.

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How many touches does it take to make a sale? The simple answer is: more than most people think! According to our Top Performance in Sales Prospecting research, it takes an average of 8 touches to get an initial meeting (or other conversion) with a new prospect. But the initial meeting is just the beginning. It takes a lot more to make the sale.

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There are 2 stats that are cited in sales articles all the time: 57% of the purchase decision is made before a customer calls a supplier 67% of the buying journey is now done digitally The question, however, is so what? Sellers and sales leaders often interpret this to mean that buyers don't want to hear from sellers. This is far from the truth.

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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.

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Executives are always on a mission to prove Kirkpatrick Level 4 measurement of training: Results. Specifically, they want to know to what degree targeted outcomes occur as a result of the training event and subsequent reinforcement. There is relatively little data on how sales training correlates to business performance and results. That is, until now.

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In our Top-Performing Sales Organization research, our goal was to assess what the Top Performers do differently than The Rest to achieve the best results.

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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?” He answers, “I didn’t sell anything either.” This is one of the challenging-yet-great things about sales. It’s measurable. At some point, you have to bring in the wins or you fail. Which begs the question, “What brings in the wins?” A few years ago we studied this from the buyer perspective and published the results in our book Insight Selling.

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Most sellers and sales leaders often ask 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.

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Even small improvements in win rate can have a huge impact on revenue. Based on findings from The Top-Performing Sales Organization Benchmark Report, the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research has identified 8 key areas that contribute to higher win rates that will help you beat your sales goals and reach Top Performer status this year:

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When it comes to winning big sales opportunities, sales leaders often share 2 complaints: Sellers aren't proactive. They fail to drive their most important sales opportunities forward with determination and rigor. Even when sellers are proactive, they don't follow a consistent process to put themselves in the best position to win the sale.

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For our What Sales Winners Do Differently research, we studied over 700 major purchases from buyers who represented $3.1 billion dollars in annual purchasing power. One question we wanted to answer was, “Is it the company and offerings that make the biggest difference in the buyer’s purchase decision, or is it the seller and how they sell?” Guess what: it’s the seller and how they sell that most separates sales winners from the rest. The following list reveals what buyers say are the top 10 areas where sellers who win outperform those who come in second place.

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How selling is changing? What do sellers need to do to maximize their success? To find out, we studied more than 700 business-to-business purchases made across industries by buyers who represent a total of $3.1 billion in annual purchasing power, and posed the question: “What are the winners of actual sales opportunities doing differently than the sellers who come in second place?” After many months of significant effort, we revealed the data and insight from our research in our What Sales Winners Do Differently research report. This report reveals data and insight from our in-depth sales research on what sellers do to win sales opportunities. The results are both surprising and fascinating.

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