Richardson has just launched a new research piece, “Understanding Selling Challenges in 2018.” This annual study of field reps, senior sales professionals, and sales leaders across industries aims to paint a clear picture of existing sales challenges and how they are evolving.
This year’s research paints a picture of intense competition for sales professionals as they work to achieve the momentum needed to win more complex sales.
As buyers become more sophisticated and increasingly aware of the breadth of options available, sales professionals are discovering that they need to respond with smarter strategies and renewed intensity.
Technology is equipping sales professionals with more capabilities to source leads, but with more choices comes confusion. At the same time, more decision makers are entering the picture further complicating the prospecting process. The result: creating a targeted prospecting strategy is becoming a major challenge for sales professionals today.
As we’ve discussed in previous posts, overcoming the status quo is a central challenge for sales professionals. Part of this problem stems from diffused decision-making across an increasing number of stakeholders. Additionally, as competition rises, businesses need greater assurance of the ROI of a proposed solution. The barriers are significant. Overcoming them requires a strong start. Effective sellers do so by leveraging referrals.
Optimism runs high in American businesses. In fact, optimism among small businesses at the end of 2017 surged to their highest levels in more than 34 years. This sentiment is shared among mid-sized companies as well. A staggering 80 percent of those surveyed said they were optimistic, a 39 percent increase over 2016.
Excellence in Team Selling is critical to success for commercial selling organizations today. Customers bring more stakeholders to the table and expect to meet more than just the salesperson before making a commitment. To manage these moments effectively, salespeople need to ensure that all players are operating at peak performance – individually and as a unit- in those high-stakes meetings.
What happened to competitive advantage? There was a time when each business had one. Some had many. However, today, that seems to be disappearing. In 2009 The Harvard Business Review called competitive advantage “fleeting,” and less than six years later Wired called it “dead.” However, the disappearance of competitive advantages is motivating businesses to take a bold, innovative approach.
Information is more available today than ever before. However, if this is the case, why are sales professionals experiencing increasing difficulty when it comes to uncovering the buyer’s decision-making process.
Here’s the answer:
Increasingly complex business needs are outpacing the sales professional’s capacity for determining decision processes. These multifaceted problems involve a growing number of stakeholders. Moreover, these challenges change fast as competitive pressures rise. This “enterprise entropy” is characterized by a central challenge that becomes diffused across an organization as more people weigh in on how to move forward.
More businesses today are moving to SaaS. Implementation is fast, systems are agile, and updates are less burdensome. Therefore, it’s no surprise that “SaaS is expected to grow sharply to nearly one-quarter (23%) of all enterprise workloads by mid-2018,” according to 451 Research. Effective SaaS sales professionals are learning to adjust to these changes.
The complexity surrounding SaaS sales and software buying decisions is increasing. The reason: traditional software models based on one-time, upfront licensing fees have evolved to SaaS cloud solutions. Now, pricing is pay-as-you-go. Therefore, buyers expect value that extends beyond the closing of the sale. This change in the software market means that professionals selling the cloud need to redesign their approach to buyers. However, the buyers are also changing.
Competition in sales continues to escalate. In response, more businesses are renewing their focus on sales performance initiatives. However, these directives leave little time for the most critical step: measurement. Even the best sales performance intentions will fall flat without measurement.
After decades of working with sales organizations across industries, we’ve determined a core group of eight sales metrics. These measurements are critical for getting an actionable read on how they’re performing as an organization, which is driven, in part, by sales performance initiatives. Some organizations will only need to use a few of these. Others may need them all. Here, we take a closer look at how each one works and why they matter.
Sales leaders and business leaders are constantly chasing more business opportunities in the race to reach their number. However, more selling isn’t the only answer. Some are discovering that smarter selling can accomplish more. With sharper negotiation skills, sellers can preserve or even increase margins of the sales that they earn in order to make each closing count.
Effective negotiating occurs throughout the selling process. Sellers do this by shaping the customer’s perception of value and working to understand their needs. The result is a mutually beneficial outcome that allows for future business. Here, we look at a few specific negotiating skills that sellers can develop in order to increase the margins of their sales.
John Elsey, President and CEO of Richardson
As the CEO of Richardson sales training, I have the pleasure of speaking to some of the world’s top sales leaders as we support them in driving profitable revenue in their respective organizations. Each year, these sales leaders face a host of challenges as they navigate people, process, and technology to deliver their number. 2017, in particular, delivered a dizzying pace of change that demanded agility from sales leaders who needed to assess their options quickly, distill what matters most, and in many cases, make bold moves to stay ahead and take advantage of opportunities in their markets.
In our last post, we reviewed groundbreaking research from The University of California, Irvine. Researchers studying the “pretesting effect” determined that taking a test before exposure to the material enhanced learning, even when participants answered questions incorrectly. The act of pretesting outperformed the experience of having more time to study or even reading the test in advance. When learners put pencil to paper and attempted to retrieve information, they became more receptive to the content later. Their findings were definitive across five different studies. However, one question remained: why does pretesting work?
Many companies cobble together programs to onboard new sellers from existing company materials. The result looks like a hodgepodge because it is one. A company history. Compliance training. Technical reviews. Digital devices. A two-day sales program. There’s little consistency, and these companies are challenged to keep their curriculum up-to-date and to understand how everything should link together in order to create a greater impact.
Increasing competition is reducing your business’s value proposition. Barriers to entry are falling in all industries, giving rise to new, aggressive players. Companies can no longer rely on branding to drive sales. Customers today seek fast, cost-efficient solutions, and many of these new competitors can deliver on those expectations. However, in their race to the sale, they’re ignoring one of the most pressing issues in sales today: customer interaction.
The Harvard Business Review collected two decades’ worth of data on collaborative working environments. Their conclusion: “The time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50% or more.” Findings like this only spark more questions — namely, what does all that time together accomplish? Ask a coworker, and you’re likely to hear, “not much.”
Inside sales professionals have a constant focus on moving quality leads through the pipeline. By reaching out to contacts, they attempt to discover which ones have needs that fit within the scope of offered solutions. Those that qualify progress to the seller.
Inside sales sometimes known as telephone sales is a growing priority for businesses seeking a wider customer outreach through the cost-effectiveness and convenience of technology. However, inside selling cannot succeed on volume alone. More customer conversations will not move the needle unless the seller can adopt a consistent framework to yield value from each interaction.
Inside sales representatives must balance the rapid-fire style of inside sales with dialogue that connects with the customer. This connection is a crucial step lacking in most sales dialogues today, as seen by research from Gallup showing that less than half of customers believe that sellers adequately address their problems. However, a consultative approach offers a scalable framework for understanding customer needs within the structure of inside sales in three ways. First, through careful questioning balanced with insights; second, by eliciting feedback; and third, by practicing active listening.
In Richardson’s new white paper, Unlock the Potential of Inside Sales with a Consultative Approach, we look at how sellers use the consultative approach to turn volume into value. The white paper outlines:
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During the tech boom of the 1990s Fortune 500 companies and behemoths of Silicone Valley were famous for challenging interviewees with puzzle questions. The candidate might be faced with a brain teaser like “how many times a day do a clock’s hands overlap,” or, “why are manhole covers round?” The most infamous of these questions was “how would you move Mount Fuji?”