Indicator has gained some valuable sales industry insights over the past three years, having worked with over 250 sales leaders, collectively responsible for over $8 billion in revenue.
To support our anecdotal findings, we surveyed 138 sales leaders during the 2017/2018 year to compile trends for the latest Mood of the Sales Leader survey.
Now, at the mid point of 2018, here are our five main reflections:
Recruitment is a vital part of sales leadership, yet we often hear of mis-steps. It’s crucial for companies who have sales teams, but it’s hard to find candidates - and even harder to get the right ones. Every business wants great sales people, yet the talent pool is limited, with the best tending to stay put while lower level ones move from one company to the next.
As an industry we sometimes fail to attract and correctly shape sales people. (This was a key finding in the MOSL survey) The reason for this is multi-pronged. Marketing strategies to attract the right people can be flawed, as can the way companies go about developing their sales leaders.
Great sales leadership can go a long way towards solving recruitment issues and creating consistency in terms of how teams sell, defend and developing existing clients. Do this well and you’ll go a long way towards solving the third issue (in the MOSL survey) of beating the competition.
Digital marketers will tell you that the “cold call” is dead and we should wait for the client to contact us after we dazzle them with amazing content. Our answer is that yes, content should be part of your strategy, but not the whole strategy. Sales people (particularly the younger generation) often believe that they shouldn’t pick up the phone. But Tony Hughes (RSVPselling) says the “silence of the sales floor is killing business”. Sales people need to be building their pipelines with innovative prospecting techniques and creating great advocates and new channels to reach their targets.
Sales people need to be proactive. That still means picking up the phone and making some cold calls. This still works in New Zealand, you can ask several of our clients who we began a relationship with by picking up the phone. You just need to be smart about it, provide some immediate value and get a level of interest from them. It’s not good enough to tell them about what you do, it takes research, practice and fortitude. It’s challenging when prospects are a target for several companies, but that shouldn’t be a deterrent.
The way we sell, connect with prospects and manage accounts is changing. Technology has enabled buyers to be more informed, meaning they are often already into the sales cycle when they engage with sales people. It has changed the role and value of the B2B salesperson. At the same time, it’s harder than ever to get time with the right customers, and the “admin” complaint from sales people has never been stronger. The jury is out whether technology is saving sales people time, however there is no doubt that AI and machine learning will change sales roles. Look out if you’re an order taker, as in the future a machine may well take your job - and probably do it better.
In 2015 Gartner Research predicted that by 2020, 85% of interactions between businesses will be done without human interactions - which seems high - but is feasible. We’re only just seeing the genesis of change with sales technology now, but there will no doubt be significant changes in years ahead.
Lean selling needs to be adopted by more companies. This means improving waste in all areas of selling, ie, spending less time with the wrong customers and streamlining inefficient sales processes (if they even have one). The cost of an inefficient sales team is considerable. It’s highlighted when sales people have their roles audited and team-wide inconsistencies are found. A great question to ask your team is how much time are they spending selling and how much of that time is spent with the right customer? Depending on which stat you follow, your sales people may be spending as little as 15% of their time selling, and much of that may be to a prospect that isn’t ideal.
Focusing on process can enable consistency across your team while significantly improving productivity and sales results. Think of the outcomes of getting an additional 10% or more productivity from your existing team.
5: Development & Training
Sales leadership is without doubt one of the most important elements of any business, and an area where we can do better as a country. A lack of quality sales people is a result of gaps in sales leadership in terms of developing these people. Development doesn’t mean simply sending them out on a training course – it’s also about the internal training and understanding of what good looks like.
We see sales leaders crying out for their own development, and often we see their companies not supporting them to do so, regardless of whether they carry a multimillion revenue target. It may be due to a lack of understanding of what good sales leadership looks like, or that very few CEOs or board members have come from a sales leadership background. The fact that you can undertake an MBA from a New Zealand university and have virtually no sales focused content is hard to believe considering nothing happens in business without a sale being made.
Three years ago we founded Sales Syndicate as a peer to peer learning and development programme for sales leaders. We did so because we saw a lack of support or development for sales leaders. We are thrilled to see our syndicate members implementing many aspects of what they learn, and adding more value to their teams and companies along the way. Good examples of improvements include better use of metrics, holding more productive sales meetings and having a better understanding of team and personal motivations.
- Prospecting technology is changing the selling landscape, but the best tool in 2018 is still the phone.
- Lack of quality sales people is a huge issue and likely to continue until sales as an industry becomes more attractive, or has a bigger role in advancing the development of people.
- A lack of process is supporting average results in the sales arena for a huge percentage of businesses.
- As a country we need to be doing more to develop sales leaders, who in turn will develop the sales people and sales leaders of the future.
- The big advancements in technology in the sales field are yet to be standard practice, or are yet to arrive. AI, machine learning and chat bots are just the beginning, and in the future will no doubt make a big impact on how we sell and become more productive.