January 8th, 2014

Five Gaps That Impact Sales Effectiveness and How to Fix Them: Part 2

sales-effectiveness

Mind the Gap!  Five Gaps That Impact Sales Effectiveness and How to Fix Them (Part 2 of 2)

This post is based on the white paper “The Five Failure Points of Today’s Selling System” by Savo Group.

We began writing about this topic in a recent post.  To review, there are critical gaps in your business that prevent sales effectiveness.  If these go unresolved, you’ll continue to struggle to hit your numbers.  You might be thinking “I’m not struggling to hit my numbers!”  If that’s true and yet you still have any of these gaps, then you’re selling yourself short (yes, pun intended) and underachieving against your potential.  And that would be a waste.

The first two areas where gaps are commonly found are The Lead and The Process.  You can read about those problems and recommended fixes here.  In both of those instances, the alignment (or lack of alignment) between sales and marketing was often at issue.  Let’s finish the list of gaps and see if that persists.

3. The Meeting

Failure:  Prospects are unengaged; sellers aren’t equipped to deliver or are often off‐message

  • The primary challenge affecting sales reps’ productivity is the amount of time it takes them to become competent with delivering your company’s messaging.

-       According to research from Forrester, only 14% of prospects say that they receive relevant messages from sellers in sales meetings.

-       From the same research, only 7% of sales reps manage to get called back to a second meeting.

  • It appears that there’s a significant disconnect between buyers’ interests and what sellers are bringing to the meeting.  They aren’t listening to the buyers’ true needs, aren’t armed with the right messages, or aren’t savvy enough to connect or convey those pieces effectively.

Fix:  Bring the right solutions at the right value to the deal

The meeting is your opportunity to shine.  Your company has been vetted for consideration, but there are still many obstacles to be avoided.  Obvious ones include your personality, how well you interact with your colleagues on the sales team (are you meeting for the first time on this gig or have you built a rapport over many years?), and how well you engage the buyer and influencers.

Other key obstacles are materials and messaging.  The buyers have researched your company, and you’ve likely sent them additional materials that support your work.  Your job is to identify with their needs and connect what you can do to resolve them, demonstrating that you have the experience and ability to add value without question.  If you want to make it to the next round, your ability to make those connections with confidence could be the deciding factor.

When the discussion gets very narrow and specific, be knowledgeable about (and better yet, able to access) cases and examples of similar client situations that represent your awareness of the issues and mastery of the solution.  This takes time, discipline, and close interaction with colleagues in marketing to generate this valuable content.  Consider leveraging your content management system and linking it to your sales automation system for the best results.

4. The Proposal

Failure:  They’re non‐productive time‐drains

The task of preparing proposals often falls to sales reps, who spend up to 60 hours a month cranking these out.  Too much of your sales reps’ time is wasted searching for information and formatting documents, for example, the results of which could be off‐brand and non‐compliant.  Does this extra time and effort lead to closing more sales?  Not often enough.

Fix:  Validate and automate, monitor

There are ways to automate this process and relieve sales reps of the burdensome proposal writing to which they can’t add value.  Work with marketing (see the pattern?) to lock down the branding and produce standard content for typical sections.  Then, let your sales reps focus their energy to customize the proposal for the buyer and their specific needs and goals.

But don’t stop there.  Once you have the basic proposal elements in place, collect and leverage information about each individual selling situation throughout the stages of the selling cycle to take automation to a new level.  This information can be used to automatically assemble the right proposal team and develop a first draft of the proposal at the push of a button.

Companies using a sales automation system with proposal capabilities can track a deal’s progress from the presentation phase to the prospect’s validation and verbal commitment to you.  Dashboards are automatically updated in real time for sales management monitoring as the deal moves through negotiation and close.  The end result is far greater forecasting accuracy that increases sales effectiveness — both operationally (the staffing and delivery of the solution) and for revenue growth.

5. The Analysis

Failure:  Inaccurate information damages forecasting accuracy

Many businesses cite information breakdowns when it comes to tracking and gaining intelligence from their sales process.  Over half those reporting to the SAVO Maturity Benchmark said that their CRM system is not configured to do the job, and two‐thirds lack basic KPIs and dashboards.  A separate study by IDC found that nearly half of sales forecasts are less than 70% accurate three months prior to close.

Failure to collect and analyze critical pieces of data about the sales process is a huge gap for many sales organizations.  What don’t you know that you should be tracking?  How, where, and when is information collected and stored?  Are you connecting all of the dots?  Who owns and is responsible for the data?  An incomplete or inaccurate data collection and analysis process will sabotage your ability to forecast and will most certainly hinder your sales organization.

Fix:  Capture Success Indicators to Correct Course, Replicate Best Practices

You need to know what’s working (and what’s not) and from that determine what needs to be done to correct or improve the situation.  That requires timely, accurate, and relevant data and analysis.

Marrying more sophisticated tracking and analytics with the ability to capture behavioral intelligence allows marketing, sales, and operations to gain insights that have never before been available.  Here are a few examples of what should you be looking for in your analysis of sales automation data:

  • Sales managers can track what actions their top sellers take and try to replicate those patterns for lesser-performing sellers.  The tracking capabilities allow sales management to use data and executive insights to better align resources.  These capabilities also shed light on where and why prospects are being lost in the sales process so that sales and marketing can better collaborate to fix the failure point.
  • Product managers can get leading indicators of the success of new product launches and other initiatives in order to learn and adjust future initiatives.
  • Marketers can receive direct feedback from field personnel — which is unfortunately still a rarity.  Coupled with analytics on what’s working and what’s not, marketers will be better able to determine how to allocate future resources.

Summary:  The Path to Smarter Selling

Making sales more effective is a critical imperative among businesses today.  It starts by taking a keen look at the points of failure in your selling system and identifying the fixes — both in terms of the thinking and advanced technological tools — that will close those gaps and enable your sales organization for long‐term success.

Let us know in the Comments section below whether you’ve experienced and conquered the gaps described here and which ones we missed that should be mentioned.  We look forward to hearing from you.

sales-effectiveness

About The Author: Dario Priolo

As Chief Strategy Officer, Dario Priolo is responsible for driving Richardson’s market, product, and corporate strategy and planning — sharing critical insights with clients to help them win in today’s changing market place. Dario gathers intelligence and market and customer knowledge to: drive Richardson’s innovation; ensure that Richardson offers the best and most relevant solutions for clients that exceed client satisfaction; and raise awareness of Richardson’s extensive capabilities with sales and business leaders.

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