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After reading the “ State of Inbound 2018 ” report, I was struck by the data it revealed concerning companies’ top sales priorities. The statistics have proven that there’s a global problem in defining sales priorities.
The report, which compiles the responses of over 6,200 leaders from around the world, states that the leading priority in all geographical areas is closing more deals ; followed by improving the efficiency of the sales funnel. On these two priorities, leaders from around the world are unanimous.
They also agree that at the bottom of the list is investing in sales enablement and in a CRM. Between the two extremes, other priorities are in an order that varies from one region to another :
● Training the sales team ;
● Improving existing sales technologies ;
You may now be thinking that you have the same priorities and that therefore the data is accurate.
Here’s why it’s a little more complicated than that.
Balancing goals and priorities
In many B2B companies, and especially SMEs, who rarely are market leaders, sales growth and better profitability remain the main objectives.
However, if the order of priorities follows the same logic as the one in the “ State of inbound 2018 ” study, it’s very unlikely the objective is met. If in fact, more sales must be concluded in order to increase turnover, priorities must remain ahead of this stage.
If I’m to believe the requests and questions we receive from Quebec SME executives, unfortunately, the order of priorities is the same here. This last week, a sales leader asked us for training focused on the conclusion of sales. Yet the ability for representatives to close sales isn’t the real problem. Sure, as the visible part of the iceberg, it’s normal to think that it’s necessary to focus on this issue. The result, however, is that other causes for poor performance are ignored. The situation remains unchanged or deteriorates.
In addition, if you make the sales closing rate your priority, what actions will you take ?
● Will you ask your marketing department to produce more tools to help your team ?
● Will you try to increase quote volume ?
● Will you lower your selling prices to try to close more sales ?
Safe to say that these actions will direct you away from the main objective, sales growth and profitability !
What should be the real priorities for sales executives ?
Before answering this question, it’s important for me to remind you that Prima Resource is a consulting firm, and that we also offer training for sales teams. In the last 10 years, I’ve helped more than 150 executives deal with their sales issues. The answer may seem biased and it’s entirely up to you to judge its quality.
According to my experience in more than 150 sales development programs, the number one priority of sales leaders must be their team’s development. On the other hand, for the development program to succeed, it’s essential to :
● Target the real needs in regards to training and sales enablement ;
● Identify the progression potential of your team and every individual member ;
● Establish your team members’ level of commitment and willingness to succeed.
For your sales force to be effective in closing more deals, as well as improving the efficiency of the sales funnel, you need more than a training course on prospecting and closing.
An effective training program must be able to achieve one or more of the following objectives :
● Generating profitable growth ;
● Have a full sales funnel yearlong ;
● Improve profit margins ;
● Establish more reliable sales forecasts ;
● Work with a formal sales process ;
● Reduce the length of the sales cycle ;
● Develop skills that have a real impact on sales.
In order to achieve each objective, the sales team (VP, directors, representatives, or even indirect channels) must be trained on several aspects :
● Sales management, including the notion of accountability (monitoring of good indicators, management of the pipeline, coaching, etc.) ;
● Consultative selling in order to sell value rather than price and close more sales through a trusted advisor approach ;
● Personalized sales process for the company and execution of it ;
● Sales DNA enhancement to eliminate actions that affect sales.
In order to achieve the objectives, it’s necessary to align them with the investment put into the sales force. Otherwise, there’s little chance of consistent success — unless the targets are too low, but that’s a completely different issue !