The Empowered Buyer has unleashed a range of new productivity challenges. Sales cycles have become longer and more complex than ever before. This becomes painfully clear in the declining number of sales reps still making quota: only an alarming 57,1% according to CSO Insights. One of the major productivity challenges we see, is complexity in the sales conversation.
Now let’s have a closer look at conversation complexity. Imagine you are a multi-product B2B company and John, one of your sales guys:
- is selling into FMCG and pharmaceuticals
- needs insights into each vertical; think of typical challenges, objections and competitive arena’s
- in each of the verticals, he will be talking to 3 or more profiles, all having different reasons to buy
- John has to guide each profile through different buying phases, each phase requiring typical answers and types of information
- and last but not least: he needs to fit all the above with the right products from his portfolio
Bottom line: John has a couple of thousands of conversations to manage!
Many companies really do expect their sales teams to familiarise with such inhuman amounts of information. And besides knowledge, don’t forget that reps need the capability to inject just the right content into the conversation at the right time, to the right person.
Now raise digital hands: can we agree that this is a mission impossible? Nobody can learn to handle this type of complexity. Sales reps are no robots switching seamlessly from one situation to the next every hour of the day. It is time we look for alternatives to support sales.
Overcoming the sales learning curve
So what can we do to get John and his colleagues back on track, and stop the year over year quota erosion? Here are 5 problem area’s:
1. 70 % of marketing content remains unused by sales
At the same time, sales reps spend 30 hours per month looking for or creating relevant content, while spending only 22% of their time actively selling. This demands first of all for a system to measure which materials are (not) being used by sales, and when. From there, marketing collateral needs to be aligned with sales conversations
2. Even Messi never stops training. So why would sales?
Traditional training is typically done in bursts of a couple of days a year. Whereas research by the Institute of America shows that 58% of training contents are forgotten within 30 minutes. Another 33% is lost after 48 hours. And by the time that theory has been put into practice, typically 3 weeks later, learning retention has been reduced to 15%. So why not shift to continuous learning by adding content training to their mobile in small nuggets, focused on individual needs? We call this ‘snackable’ learning
3. Over 80% of buyers say vendors don’t understand their issues
Closely related to the previous point, sales training and support collateral are mostly still focused on company solutions and product benefits. Buyers today are hyper connected and empowered via online and social collaboration. They don’t need your sales to explain products and services. But what they do want, is a trusted partner and advisor to help solve critical business issues
4. Most management practices have their own set of ground rules
Most management practices – like engineering or accounting – have their own set of ground rules. Imagine the drama if we took balance sheets away from financial reporting! Yet, sales management doesn’t have any ground rules or common management practice to fall back on. Instead, we are reinventing the wheel. And in many cases, we don’t even have a sales management practice behind
5. The competitive, individual (non collaborative) culture we see in most sales teams
Sales meeting agendas are still driven by business updates and reviews. Let sales become a team sport and turn sales meetings into experience sharing events. Ask marketing to join in and keep sales support materials aligned and up-to-date. You will cultivate an experience sharing culture
It would take us too far in this blog post to draw out answers for all the above. But we have done so in a webinar together with Vlerick Business School. It will take you through the 5 components to support an effective team – in less than an hour! Boost the conversation, and the sales results: