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About Pascal Persyn

Pascal supports organisations in delivering commercial excellence in the areas of Sales Enablement, Content Strategy and Buyer Journey Enablement. His pet projects are about helping companies overcome challenges due to the empowered customer and thus evolving into buyer-aligned organisations. His executive experience in private, VC-backed and public companies enables doing the right thing at the right time with the right people. Don’t hesitate to contact Pascal for expert advice: pascal@perpetos.com


In this article we will focus on commercial forecasting, i.e. we will look at unsigned orders and contracts. Sales forecasts are never easy. However, in uncertain times it’s no exaggeration to speak about “unpredictability”. This is certainly true if the following factors are combined:  

  • Project and/or recurring sales 
  • Direct and indirect sales, co-selling and working with agents 
  • Complexity of the deal (product mix, size,…) 
  • Buying cycle variety:  number of people involved – buying experience,… 
  • Length of the selling cycle 
  • Experience of salespeople and their management 
  • Composition of the territory, regions and product mix per salesperson 
  • Market share, brand awareness and competitive strengths  

A brief survey during our webinar has made it clear that when making their forecasts, enterprises mainly struggle with delays in making decisions and the reliability of data. This leads to all kinds of complex processes, Excel worksheets outside the scope of the CRM and uncertainties.  

Fortunately, there are ways to drastically reduce this unpredictability and at the same time enable management to undertake action in time and proactively. This is even more important in uncertain times.  

An “agile forecast” is best composed of:  

  • 3 parallel scenarios that allow an analysis of the frictions as well as timely decisions. These scenarios are typical: the worst possible result, the most realistic outcome and the scenario that is feasible with some luck.  
  • No targets and forecasts on the basis of the calendar year or the fiscal year. It’s preferable to work with a rolling forecast of four quarters. In other words, a new quarter is added after every quarter.  

The combination of proper visibility and accuracy and the continuous improvement of the quality of your sales require a number of conditions or criteria to be met:  

  • The same mechanism should be used, from the individual salesperson up to management level 
  • There must be a constant visibility of 4 quarters 
  • Several parallel scenarios (as mentioned above) 
  • Use buying phases as a process rather than the salesperson’s selling phases. This is crucial as a solution for the continued delay in the decision-making process. More information can be found in the blog and the webinar about (CTA to blog 2) 
  • The criteria for the calculation of the scenarios must be based on verifiable customer information. A typical example: Has the budget been approved and is it available?  

A forecast made in this manner has major permanent advantages:  

  • Better use of the selling time and support 
  • Maximum visibility, and the possibility to make adjustments in time…  
  • Less complexity thanks to the uniform process and way of working throughout the company and the avoidance of parallel work in CRM and Excel worksheets 
  • Continuous process that significantly simplifies the annual planning, while avoiding the complex quarterly business reviews (QBR).  
  • Uniform system that makes consolidation possible in spite of high diversity 

The coaching and developing of sales talent is a major secondary effect of this way of working. Good salespeople will use this system for self-coaching and thus achieve even better results.  

View the complete webinar for more detailed examples of this way of working. 

Perpetos Webinar

[FREE WEBINAR]
Dealing with an unpredictable forecast

  How to handle supporting, monitoring and coaching commercial employees
  Quickly adding scenario’s in your reporting for better founded corporate decisions
  Enable management to implement changes


In times of uncertainty or economic recession, winning new customers is even more important than usual. As existing customers reduce or cancel their orders, there is a sudden need for new orders. This is not easy in times when everyone is concerned. Buying from a new supplier implies unknown factors and increases possible uncertainties, making it even more difficult for suppliers to win new customers. Moreover, this is not part of the sales and marketing routine.  

In the article and the webinar “value creation in times of considerable uncertainty”, we will discuss the required knowledge and skills and the pitfalls relating to this topic. The basis to win new customers is customer confidence. And the fastest way to win new customers is to know what the challenges and aspirations of the potential customer are before the first contact. However, there is no approach that works for every situation, as it depends on the experiences of the customer, the impact and therefore the importance of the purchase and the complexity of the solution, as represented in the figure below.  

Criteria influencing sequence design

An adequate sales sequence is necessary, in line with the foregoing. For that purpose you need to know the number of touchpoints, the media, the duration, the spacing of the touchpoints and the message you will use.  The figure below illustrates the components on the basis of which the sequence must be developed.  

Customer acquisition sales sequence design

Finally we will provide you with some must-do’s for the development of your sales sequence:  

  • Mix the media you use (minimally 3) 
  • Telephone calls are still an essential element 
  • A minimum of 6 contact attempts spread over time are necessary for a satisfying result  
  • For complex sales to large enterprises, you may even need 14 to 16 contact attempts spread over 22 days  
  • The follow-up of requests or reactions must take place on the same day; if not, the chance of a breakthrough decreases dramatically and the cost of sale will become much too high.  
  • The messages used must be adjusted to the industry or sector. Research has shown that capitalising on the role of the individual or enterprise results in a lower conversion  
  • During the first contacts, you enter an unknown phase of the customer’s buying cycle. Determining this phase as quickly as possible and adjusting your messages is of crucial importance in the digital era. Your LinkedIn profile must be attractive and must clearly reflect your potential contribution.  
  • Focus on building a relationship and trust by giving away “free” knowledge and experience. Selling the “arrangement”, which was the essential element for a long time when prospecting, has lost a lot of its success, is absolutely “not done” in times of uncertainty and will lead to procrastination. For example: “Call me back in autumn” 

More detailed examples are given in the webinar.  

Perpetos Webinar

[FREE WEBINAR]
How to win new customers today

  What are customers looking for? How to discover and discuss this?
  Which mix of digital, virtual and (if possible) physical conversation works best?
  How to wrap the sales message so the customer will take action?


During periods characterised by insecurity the general attitude towards salespeople changes. In addition, customers’ focus shifts to short-term solutions and the reduction of risk. Both constitute an opportunity for enterprises and salespeople who manage to adapt to this situation quickly. Adding value while responding to this situation and at the same time focussing on enhancing customer confidence.  

There are four elements that play a role in creating value for the customer:  

  • How can we improve our insight into the customer’s situation?  
  • What are the techniques we can use?  
  • How can we keep all conversations relevant?  
  • How can we ensure that customers are prepared to pay for it?  

In this respect it’s important to have a good insight into the customers’ “Buyer Journey”.  

Waarde creëren in tijden van grote onzekerheid

A few important things to take into account:  

  • A late entry in the buying cycle does not provide much room for value creation, as the customer already knows what he wants and has a preferred supplier with whom he compares other suppliers 
  • If you enter the cycle before the trigger moment, your chances of success are much better.  Nevertheless, your focus should be on messages that increase the willingness to change, i.e. messages that break through the status quo and the “loyalty loop”.  
  • As a salesperson, you must be able to guide the customer through his buying cycle by aligning the activities and messages to what is important to him.  

When you have contact with a customer, you can find out where he is in the buying cycle by asking a few questions. It’s not possible to reverse the cycle. If the customer is already at the end of the cycle, you need very strong conversation techniques to create an opening. Unfortunately, the consequence is that the price is a very important factor, unless you are lucky enough that others before you have made a significant mistake.  

The value wedge combined with the phase in the buying cycle indicate how the added value can be created.  

value wedge

First let’s discuss the typical pitfalls and mistakes that are made on the basis of the value wedge.  The salesperson:  

  1. doesn’t distinguish himself from the competition, just tells the same story 
  1. tries to convince the customer with strong points of the competition that are not at all strong points of his own offer, as it is clear how important they are to the customer.  
  1. is too focused on outdoing the competition by focusing on strong points they both have but that are not relevant for the customer 
  1. fails completely by presenting entirely irrelevant advantages and messages on the basis of his own convictions or non-identical situations, causing irreparable damage to customer confidence.  

If the right conversations take place in line with the specific phase in the buying cycle, the essential confidence will be built quickly, and the critical insights will be acquired that enable the salesperson to focus on the messages that are important to the customer and that the competition overlooked.  

A few “must-do’s” during conversations:  

  • Tell a clear story about similar situations and thus quickly build confidence for the next steps.  
  • Use the right interview and conversation techniques to not only have full knowledge of the situation but also to quantify. This will have a major impact on the price the customer is willing to pay.  
  • Once preparations are complete, your first contact in the active sales cycle is preferably the person who is exposed to the most disadvantages and at the same time has the highest decision-making power. This way you structurally increase your chances of quickly breaking through the status quo.  
  • Ask closed questions to validate your assumptions and monitor your rapport with the person concerned.  
  • Provide a solid underpinning for a possible change, so as to make it easier to minimise discounts and therefore to sell at a higher price than the competition. 

Do you want to know more about these essential elements?  

Perpetos Webinar

[FREE WEBINAR]
Selling value in uncertain times

   How to continuously improve our knowledge about our customers?
  Turning changing insights into added value
  How to increase the relevance of our interactions for the customers?
  How to get customers to buy the added value?


Customers are currently concerned with the uncertain situation and short-term results. In order to be able to act as leaders in current times, we will discuss a few questions in detail:  

  • What do we know today, and which changes will be permanent? 
  • What are the 5 new skills that every salesperson needs?  
  • What are the 4 main pitfalls?  

In our very first webinar at the start of the lockdown, we discussed the procedure for remote sales, as well as the way salespeople can support their customers while being productive themselves:  

  • Contact as many people as possible 
  • Assess the customers who are active and are even ready to make investments 
  • Subdivide your customers in groups based on similar needs and set priorities 
  • Set up small-scale campaigns in line with this temporary subdivision 
  • Be prepared and be sure to practise, as the contents of the conversations is totally different than usual and physical conversations are not possible 

A brief survey in this webinar indicated that enterprises mainly struggle with (in descending order of importance):   

  • Filling the pipeline to limit the impact to a minimum 
  • Acquiring several contacts with the same company in order to acquire a clearer insight 
  • Mixed feelings about the continued remote sales 
  • Focus on short term rather than on long term 

According to an investigation by McKinsney, 96% of enterprises have adjusted their “go-to-market” model to the current situation. 80% even state that the new approach will be applicable at least 1 year. Within the context of this new approach, it’s a challenge for salespeople to remain relevant and create value immediately.  

Three important components of leadership are:  

  • Way of selling: it’s essential to have several contacts in a company, but that’s only possible via a hybrid interaction model. This means less face-to-face contacts, less travelling but more digital contacts.  
  • Timing & opportunities: proper time management has more than ever become crucial for setting the right priorities.  
  • Value creation: In these uncertain times there are 6 factors customers are extra sensitive for. Responding to one or several of those factors with value-driven messages is an important way to have more impact. These 6 factors are the following:  
  • Social responsibility 
  • Reducing anxiety 
  • Availability 
  • Stability 
  • Risk reduction 
  • Flexibility 

This new approach also means that salespeople need a number of new skills:  

  • Building bridges for customers: By combining the insights of the different contacts within the company and linking them to the additional value your company offers 
  • Talking to customers with a beginner’s mindset and avoiding the pitfall of pre-covid assumptions 
  • Combining proactive interactions with replies to the rather reactive questions.  
  • Being able to provide structure and react to unfiltered customer information, so that the colleagues think along and work on the basis of the new insights 
  • Making use of the video meeting experience acquired in order to introduce a hybrid interaction model with more virtual contacts alternating with physical meetings 
  • Closing the gap between knowledge and competencies 

The most important pitfalls in the current situation are:  

  • Changing too slow due to a delay in translating the impact into a new approach 
  • Getting stuck in replying to short-term reactive questions 
  • Underestimating the required new knowledge & competencies 
  • Not letting go of the experience and insights acquired before covid-19 and thus missing or misjudging new opportunities 

Do you want to know more about how you can face the current challenge? 

Perpetos Webinar

[WEBINAR]
Taking the lead in the aftermath

  Which 5 new skills are needed
  How to avoid the 4 largest pitfalls
  What has changed permanently


Pascal Persyn, CEO of Perpetos, and Prof. Dr. Deva Rangarajan (Director of Professional Selling, Ball State University) discuss how traditional commercial employees should adapt to the new, digital approach to sales.

The CEO of Perpetos sees COVID-19 as an opportunity. Traditional salespeople are now confronted with a new reality, the perfect opportunity to step outside their comfort zone. This will eventually accelerate the general transition to a new approach to sales for many commercial teams. When the current situation ends, a number of people will obviously switch back to more traditional methods. However, the advantages will speak for themselves. Both customers and salespeople will realise that multichannel communication can generate added value.

Perpetos will in the near future present a five-step strategy to facilitate the transition to this digital era:  

  1. Select active customers and/or customers who see the current situation as an opportunity for extra leverage
  2. Divide customers into groups based on similar reasons to buy a product or service
  3. Set priorities based on their willingness to buy spread over time
  4. Develop short campaigns that include multiple touchpoints  
  5. Make sure you are very well prepared by practicing with colleagues 

How can you teach salespeople new skills during a lockdown period?

This is a question that many ask themselves! Perpetos has been offering virtual training, e-learning and micro-learning in collaboration with Qstream and Showpad for quite some time now. These teaching methods are often used by international companies that make use of small commercial teams spread across the globe. Perpetos supports you and your company in this transition and in the creation of momentum during the restart.

Learn more on this topic:

Watch Webinar:
Selling from home

An action-oriented webinar full of tips and tricks from sales in remote selling jobs since many years yet adapted to the current times.

Discover our Remote Sales Resource Center

Find all the info in one place, get valuable insights from practice and enjoy free webinars.


Blog in cooperation with Qstream 

Turning your company and employees in a full remote workforce is not easy. Are you capable of delivering critical information at scale? How do you connect with your colleagues to ensure they stay engaged, productive and retain knowledge?  

Remote or not, keeping employees engaged with training materials has always been a challenge. But now you have to create learning programs for an entire remote workforce. How confident are managers that this new knowledge is being learned and retained? 

Remote learning at scale 

In the current situation it’s important to ensure that learning programs are accessible and effective for  your whole workforce immediately. One of the tools Perpetos is using for its customers is Qstream.  The Qstream app has the huge advantage of being able to deliver learning programs quickly and at scale by using SaaS-based mobile and spaced microlearning technology. The method is delivering engaging microlearning challenging in just minutes a day. Peer competition and leaderboards keep remote employees excited to complete challenges while learning new content and reinforcing critical concepts. The platform makes it easy to build and deliver new programs in matter of days once the development of the program has started even if the program has to be fully custom.  

This goes much further than traditional learning management systems (LMS) which only offers learner participation and course completion data. Qstream on the other hand, provides valuable and targeted data and insights and heatmaps on specific content topics and competencies, on individual learner and team performance. 

It has even been clinically proven that Qstream’s spaced education methodology, called ‘the spaced effect’, is highly effective for teaching new materials and not only reinforcement. You can find more information about this success in a recent blog post of Dr. Kerfoot (MD eDM & co-founder of Qstream). 

A clinical study discovered that there is no correlation to when employees were last trained”

Let’s take a closer look at the clinical study of Johnny Hamilton (Senior Design and Innovation Consultant at Providence St. Joseph Health). He ran a Qstream to 3 different groups: 

  • Group 1: previous training on the materials in an instructor-led course 4 months earlier 
  • Group 2: took the formal course 9 months earlier 
  • Group 3: learning the concept with Qstream for the 1st time 

Results were impressive; he discovered that there is no correlation to when employees were last trained. All 3 groups had the same initial proficiency, whether or not they previously took the course. People forgot what they learned through traditional methods. This shows that when the learning process is started, there immediately needs to be an ongoing learning activity spaced over time. This helps to reinforce critical knowledge. 

Qstream pilot data summary

This research points out the fact that Qstream’s microlearning solution is a successful way to engage, present and reinforce critical knowledge. This helps learners to remain informed and do their job successfully. Even in the unusual circumstances we find ourselves in today with a full remote workforce.  

Circumstances may go back to ‘normal’, but implementing a cost-effective, non-disruptive, clinically proven microlearning solution will certainly stand the test of time. 

Qstream app

Perpetos Improves Customer Sales Proficiency from 53% to 80%

Qstream’s mobile microlearning application was selected by Perpetos as a continuous sales training reinforcement solution for their sales performance programs which help their customers improve conversion rates and lower the cost of sales.


Customers’ buying behaviour has changed considerably in the past few years. How can companies respond to this challenge? How do you organise sales in a digital world? Are you still sending your salespeople out like talking brochures, or will you take action? And how? A diagnosis.  

Time for a sales reboot 

Since 2012, the results of a multitude of studies about the changing buying behaviour of customers have been published. However, many companies only take action when the impact really becomes painful. And it’s often too late by then. It is therefore advisable to take action proactively. But can you motivate people and organise your sales in such a manner that the transition can take place in a timely and painless manner?  

Download our eBook “7 Criteria for a Sales Process your Sales Team will actually use

Avoid a reaction that is either too soft or too hard 

There are two ways to react to the reality of changing buying behaviour.  

  •  (Too) many companies continue to assure their clients that with some adjustments, the existing commercial solutions are immune to the changes. Unfortunately, the sales pipeline is like the arteries in our body. If we do not adopt a healthy lifestyle, they slowly get clogged up. The consequences in the long term are disastrous. Holding on to old habits is not the solution.  
  • Others call for a revolution. The world is no longer the same, which is why a drastic transformation of sales is required. We have to start over! That means completely redesigning the processes and systems and preparing for the future! That may be so, but… intrusive action often triggers a shock effect, which in turn has serious consequences.  

Opt for the human approach!  

How can you react to the constantly changing world? Doing nothing is not an option. Starting all over again is not the right solution, either. Actually, the answer is simple: we have to evolve together with our customers. Selling is and will always be a people business, even online. The impact we are noticing with our customers and prospects shows that the changes are real. It is therefore necessary to develop a change process as soon as possible. This way, the changes can be implemented gradually and on a human scale. Without disruptions or all too radical actions.  

Toward a new role for salespeople  

All change processes are based on insights. Customers are still overwhelmed by salespeople who are sent out by their employers like some sort of talking brochures, although they don’t care about salespeople bombarding them with arguments and the benefits of the products they try to sell. Some consultants take advantage of this fact by stating that salespeople will disappear altogether. Nothing could be further from the truth, but it is true that the role of salespeople is changing drastically.  

60% of the sales opportunities come to nothing because the customer does not buy or does not change suppliers.  

The sales cycles have become 22% longer since 2012 and your biggest competitor is no longer your direct competitor, but customers who do “nothing”.  Recent research has shown that up to 60% of the opportunities are simply closed in CRM because the customer doesn’t buy anything or is not willing to change suppliers. You can imagine the impact on the sales cost.  

Sales are needed as long as you:  

  • … incorporate the right mix of digital and human touchpoints in the entire buying cycle of the customer. This depends on the complexity of the product or service you offer, but mainly on the impact on the customer.  
  • … use an interpersonal approach focused on supporting customers and creating added value. This requires the salespeople to have contact with an increasing number of different persons with the customer and at other moments during the buying cycle.  
  • … adjust the sales pitches to every moment during the buying cycle and to the profile of the persons with whom the salespeople are to engage in dialogue.  

Do you want to find out how you can prepare your commercial staff for the future without having to take all too radical actions? Contact us or read more in our eBook:

7 Criteria your sales process has to meet

Are you looking for a new Sales process to find a (new) way to reduce your cost of sales, stop margin erosion or better align your approach with the customer’s buying cycle? Learn how to make sure that the selected process is right for your business.


Our customers’ buying behaviour has changed dramatically since the emergence of the internet, and since social media took over some of the salespeople’s tasks. The recent Connected Commerce paper from Nielsen once again confirms how much we’re all shopping with smartphones in hand, comparing prices and searching online for product specifications and reviews. Phenomena such as webrooming and showrooming fit in seamlessly with this trend.

Before you read on, we’d first like to reveal that showroom salespeople do still have an important role to play in the digital era! But the job is different nowadays, and certainly hasn’t become any easier.

We’re still buying expensive (customised) products from real-life salespeople

Showrooming is when customers go into a shop to look at, try on and test products such as clothes and electronics, but then place their orders online. Webrooming is the opposite: customers search for information online, but then validate their choice in the shop or showroom, and ultimately buy from a salesperson in the flesh.

However … the higher a product’s value and/or complexity, and the less often you buy it, the greater the sense of risk. You can quickly choose and pay for a new vacuum cleaner online, for example. But for bigger investments – especially when there’s some customisation, e.g. kitchens, patios, doors and windows, tiles or a car – most buyers still want to complete their buying process with some form of human interaction. This is therefore a typical product category for webrooming.

Challenges for showroom salespeople

Potential buyers of higher value (customised) products are still going to showrooms, but only less than twice on average. We’re also seeing that good, experienced salespeople are spending much more time and energy completing sales nowadays. But why?

  • Webrooming, discussed above
  • Increasingly competitive markets – sometimes with several suppliers offering similar products in the same street – mean that salespeople need to convince customers why their products are the best option. Customers don’t always have a clear overview of any differences, and so are tempted to simply choose the cheapest.

In order to convince potential customers to complete a purchase, our salespeople generally have two options, each with their own disadvantages:

  1. Immediately finalise all the details for a product sale with the customer (e.g. design a kitchen, configure options for a car, etc.), provide a quote straight away, and try to seal the deal.
    Disadvantage: this takes a lot of time. But mainly: the potential customer then has all the information they need, meaning in principle that they no longer need the salesperson, and can instead use the information gained to negotiate a price with your competitor
  2. Or the salesperson tries to make a second appointment.
    Disadvantage: waiting too long to find out all the information and receive a quote increases the risk that a potential customer will seek a solution elsewhere and buy from your competitor in the meantime

Dovy Keukens: what competences do salespeople need today?

You used to be a product salesperson who knew your product inside-out. Or you were good at building relationships, and you made sales based on the trust you earned. But you need more than that nowadays.

Johan Verbeke, Sales Manager at Dovy Keukens, a leading Belgian supplier of tailor-made kitchens:

Like all companies, we had to adapt to the digital era. We’ve realised that salespeople need to do the right thing at the right time to meet each individual customer’s wishes. So they need to work out rapidly what to do- and what not to do- and decide if it might be better to make a follow-up appointment.

Salespeople need to translate the desired experience into a proposal that makes the most of our product strengths. They also need to capitalise on the company’s strengths, because the way we approach things can also make the difference. Sealing the deal at the right time keeps us ahead of our competitors.

Salespeople are therefore expected to be real all-rounders these days. Together with Perpetos, we’re actively working to develop all these competences in our sales team. And we clearly see the positive impact this has on our conversion rates.

Important role for Sales Management: keep the team focused

In order to discuss customer cases quickly and efficiently, and maximise our salespeople’s results, it’s important that managers and salespeople speak the same language.

Sales Management can help keep salespeople focused by providing sales support and coaching the team- to take advantage of each individual situation in practice. Digital tools, such as CRM, are often still seen as an administrative burden, even though they can help with coaching and improve performance. This does require the CRM being adapted as a sales support tool, however, and not just a reporting tool.

Is there room for improving your sales performance? Do you want to optimise your margins or sales cost? Would you like to discuss your experiences without any obligation? Contact our experts

Start the conversation


Less than half of the sales reps meets their target quota. A third of them not even 40% of their quota. These alarming figures come from the research report: Global Chief Sales Officer Study 2018 from Sirius Decisions. The results are based on interviews with sales directors of 250 companies from different sectors, from medium sized enterprises to multinationals.

In the competitive market today, companies with a personalized sales approach have to be able to sell valuable products for a decent price, but also have to create an efficient experience for the buyer. To convert sales experience in a competitive advantage and to attain the target quota in 90% of time, more focus on the sales strategy is needed.

More structure

For not 50%, but 90% of your sales to reach their quota, sales needs a clear structure. To start: Every sales manager needs to create a clear organization structure, properly defined territories, have a clear repartition of tasks and provide sufficient support.

Increased sales cycle

That structured approach is also applicable for the content assets for sales. Those sales support resources should be mapped onto the buying cycle for each customer segment, specific clients, each sector,… So that every market is completely covered.

More buyer journey

Is your sales strategy completely focused on how your clients prefer to buy? Is your approach in line with the buying cycle of different type of customers? What is the willingness to buy of your customer and do your sales reps take the right steps at the right time? Or as we prefer: Where is your prospect on the Buying Clock? This approach offers nothing but advantages: your sales reps increase their probability of attaining quota, your margins go up, the buying experience of your customer improves and you are able to make more accurate revenue predictions.

Only by focusing the entire sales process onto the buying cycle, is the sales team able to guide a prospect trough the decision making process efficiently. This leads to much faster results than when you force the buyer to take certain steps that are part of a classic sales scenario. Above solution is the best way to fight the increased sales cycle length as reported by 64% of the participating companies.

More internal cooperation

In most cases sales managers can count on other departments to generate leads. How can you ensure that everyone keeps contributing to lead generation? How can you structure those different efforts in a coherent strategy?

lead generation

This can be enabled by aligning sales, pre-sales, inside sales, marketing communication, product development and other departments. The best result is attained by focusing everyone on the customer and his buying cycle, this creates a much better internal alignment. This approach has to be anchored in your company culture, individual behavior, your processes and systems, but it all starts with the customer. Companies where everyone is cooperating on the basis of the customer and customer needs, grow 19% faster in revenue and reach 15% higher efficiency in comparison to the others. Clear rules on who follows up the leads in the funnel are an important part of the strategy.

Often the opposite is true and different departments hunt for other potential buyers with different products and messaging, which drives the sales productivity below average. You can create better harmony by aligning on the target markets, customer grouping and type of buyers.

More business insight

It is crucial to have talented sales reps in your team. So spend enough time and budget in your sales team, not only to attract new talent, and on-board newcomers, but also to keep your best sales reps.

Sales reps need continuous training for the specific needs of each customer. Almost three quarter of sales managers reports that their sales reps lack the ability to connect solutions to business issues. So it is important that your reps have the ability to convert product knowledge into buyer context. Read more on our blog on Measuring and maximizing the impact of sales training.

More software

Our wish list is almost ready. Also important in including in your sales strategy is automation, which saves time for your reps and increases their productivity. Did you know that sales on average only spends 27% of its time with real sales activities with customers and prospects? So it is useful to find out where sales is losing time. Often these are administrative tasks, planning, keeping systems up to date,… Most of these tasks can be relatively easily eliminated with the right apps and automation.

In summary

30% of sales reps achieve only 40% of target. Sales organisations traditionally used 2 strategies to tackle productivity issues: either hire new people, or organise more sales training and coaching. A recent study conducted by SiriusDecisions, shows that the digital era requires a different approach. In a competitive market, we need other solutions to sell more with the same or lower cost.

We can help with a tailored improvement project. But mostly by anchoring the changes to have a lasting impact.

Not sure where to begin? You can start by doing this benchmark scan.

Sales Performance Benchmark

Sales Performance Benchmark

How much do your sales convey these three sets of messages?
And to what extent can they discuss them with the customer at the right time?
Compare your sales performance and customer orientation with best in class companies.


More and more salespeople are struggling to meet their targets. This is a statement we increasingly hear when talking to CEO’s as well as heads of sales and marketing. Upon further investigation, we find overwhelming evidence that there is an important lack of customer knowledge, vertical business acumen and sales competencies specific to the current era.

So let’s have a look at the numbers first. CSO’s yearly study on quota attainment shows a growing problem. Because the number of companies achieving their revenue plans has decreased.

productivity01

And the number of salespeople making quota is even worse. It has declined to 58.1%, according to Jim Dickie at CSO Insights.

For over 25 years, people have been looking at sales productivity as the combination of efficiency and effectiveness of their activities. This has been reiterated in a Miller Heiman blogpost from 2014.

 

productivity02That definition of the sales productivity challenge might be useful to create awareness in the sales community. But it does not actually improve results. For far too long sales training and methodology companies have dominated the discussion. They tend to link this challenge to a need for more training and for cloning the practices of top performers. Resulting in an annual spend of $24 billion in sales training in the US alone, according to ASTD.

Let’s bury the past and analyse the current situation. And come up with strategies that actually work in today’s competitive selling environment. Today, almost everybody agrees that customers are better informed and no longer accept being sold to.

So what has changed?

Sales has been able to cover up their lack of customer knowledge by explaining the features and benefits of their offering – preferably supported by demos. Customers settled for that way of interaction with sales because they had no alternative. Yet, in today’s market, people are able to educate themselves without the help of a sales rep.

This has revealed the ‘real’ problem of sales teams: the ability to add value in the sales conversation. According to research by CSO Insights, 82% of senior executives indicated that content is a significant driver to their buying decision. As a result, content production increased dramatically in the recent years. And some vendors and analysts are claiming that content marketing is taking over from sales.

What hasn’t changed?

Yet, the 2015 B2B buyers study by SiriusDecisions proves that content marketing hasn’t solved the problem of decreasing quota attainment. And besides that, they reveal that there is an almost 50-50 divide between “digital” and sales interactions. These numbers are almost independent of the buying cycle complexity and the stage in the buying cycle as shown in figure 3. So let’s make absolutely clear here, that content marketing is important but doesn’t replace sales.

productivityCIn addition, we need to kill a second misconception, that the buyer is forcing sales reps to enter only at the end of his buying cycle.

Moreover, let’s stop using the CEB number indicating that 57% of the buying cycle is already done before salespeople are involved. What we need are meaningful conversations. No matter if the conversation occurs via human interaction or non-human engagement. And as long as buyers find the answers they are looking for throughout their buying cycle.

Does this mean that investment in sales content and training is no longer effective? On the contrary, both are more important than ever. It is more difficult to train sales people on business knowledge and industry expertise than it is to train them on product related knowledge. This calls for additional conversational selling skills as well.

What is all of this telling us as to how to overcome the sales productivity challenge?

Sales leaders need to initiate strategies to increase a sales rep’ ability to add value to the buyer/seller conversation. The low rates that sales teams experience converting leads to decisions clearly prove this. In fact, 60% of opportunities lead to a ‘no decision’ according to another study by CSO insights.

Investing in “efficiency” technologies and processes to have more conversations, isn’t going to increase sales productivity. Not as long as we don’t work on the quality of those conversations. Better first invest in strategies focused on “effectiveness” to increase conversion. Once that is in place, we can still focus on efficiency.

 

productivity04Here’s an updated graph from Dave Fitzgerald’s post reflecting today’s B2B competitive selling environment:
Results – can be number of wins, revenue sold, quota attainment, (your choice)
Competency – the ability to do something well
Experience – skill or knowledge that you get by doing something
Knowledge – information, understanding, or skill that you get from experience

Time to implement a solution that works

Our analysis shows over and over that more experienced sales are by far the majority of top quota carriers. They have had the time to learn and improve their competence. So the solution has to impact the ramp up time as well as the length of their tenure. And during that time, we need to improve knowledge sharing combined with a culture of continuous improvement. This will create the shortest time to experience, adaptive to changes in the marketplace.

In other words, if we want to improve the productivity of the entire team, the solution needs to create a continuous stream of knowledge and experience sharing. So ask yourself the following 5 questions:

  • Is my sales process enabling sales management to coach people on doing the right thing at the right time?
  • Do we have content adapted to each phase of the buying cycle AND to the different people (Buyer Persona) involved?
  • Are we re-packaging marketing content for conversational use by the sales team?
  • What is management actively doing to create a culture of knowledge sharing and continuous improvement?
  • Is our sales training continuous, snackable and integrating skills, attitude and company specific messaging?

 

productivityEThe figures, based on a CSO insights study, are both aspirational and motivating to boost initiatives based on the 5 aforementioned questions. Talk to one of our experts and get custom and actionable input.

 

 

 

 

Click here to see ‘Checklist: What customers expect from your sales people’ in which you will find the 10 most important customer expectations.

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