The obvious answer would be to just spend more time selling. But the apparently obvious isn’t always best.
Where does the 20% more selling time come from?
According to numerous respected analyst reports, customer surveys, sales enablement vendors and countless anecdotal reports, B2B sales reps waste at least 20% of their time searching for the right content to win business. Add to that the time they spend creating content when they can’t find what they need and some analysts put the time lost at over 40%. Actually in our own survey of B2B technology companies, managers had no idea of exactly how much time is lost – just that it is probably a lot and people are frustrated.
Better processes backed by suitable technology can help to make sure that sales reps can find the content much more quickly and spend more time selling.
More selling time should produce more revenue. However, a major customer complaint is that around 60% of sales reps are not well prepared for the conversations that customers expect. So should you simply opt for your team spending 20% more time selling the same way they do now or could you do better?
Best performers focus on being even better
What sparked this article was a piece I read about Eddie Jones, the England rugby coach. He talked about a few hours he spent with Pep Guardiola, possibly the greatest football coach of his generation. Eddie, who is vastly experienced and very successful himself, spoke of what he learned and how inspired he was watching Pep at work and how much Pep gave and got from the great players he was coaching; constant improvement; the best getting better.
Training and coaching sales should be part of any company’s sales improvement strategy. Lately the term “sales enablement” has gained traction and training/coaching is one of the pillars of that discipline.
What do winners do?
Let’s consider the outcomes you want from sales enablement.
My preferred sales skills education focuses on what the highest sales performers do and emulating that behaviour rather than just following a standard sales process. (Just following a process let’s you tick all the boxes and still lose the deal.)
Similarly, I’d rather look at the winning behaviour of the best in class companies are doing than point out where we are all going wrong and suggesting a packaged solution.
A lot of this will just seem like common sense to experienced sales and marketing leaders but it helps to back that with real data when an organisation may have to change behaviour or spend money. So I’ll use data from respected analysts.
Here’s just 3 of the most desired outcomes that companies say they want from sales enablement (according to CSO Insights):
- Increase sales efficiency – say 81.8% of respondents
- Increase revenues – 75.8%
- Reduction in sales cycle length – 46.5%
Now here’s what the best in class companies, the top 20%, are achieving against those goals. I show the best in class figure versus average performers and laggards in brackets.
- 99% total team quota attainment (vs. 61% & 46%) with 75% of sales reps individually achieving quota or above (vs. 50% & 27%).
- 13.1% year on year increase in revenues (vs. 4.3% increase & 0.5% decline).
- 3.3% average year on year improvement (reduction) in sales cycle times (vs. 0.4% & 3.8% worse).
(Source Aberdeen Group)
What are they doing to achieve this?
Here are some common attributes.
They have sales enablement processes in place that encompass:
- Training and coaching
All of them agree with the core message that content must become a sales force’s strategic imperative and a number one priority on every sales leader’s agenda. Content is the key element that can impact the relationship with prospects and customers significantly.
“Highly effective customer-facing content that covers the entire customer’s journey is a must-have ingredient to remain successful in an ever-changing, buyer-driven world. To provide highly effective content, a customer-core strategy is mandatory. Executing a customer-core strategy requires work with the customer’s journey as a main design point ……” (source CSO Insights)
The type of content is also a differentiator. There is the usual customer facing content such as case studies, white papers, product presentations etc; the stuff that every company produces. Then there is what I’ll call the “How to” content that enables the sales process and helps to progress the deal. When asked what improvements in content would be most helpful they opt for the latter ahead of the more standard marketing and product collateral.
They study the customer’s needs and what is being called the “customer’s journey”. They proactively deliver the sales best practices, the “How to” information, the expert knowledge and experience information, the up-to-date competitive positioning and the more standard collateral at the point the sales teams need it. Also, marketing has extensive visibility into the sales team’s use of that content and looks to constantly improve.
They train early and often and support the training with coaching information. Remember how little information is retained after training sessions without follow-ups and coaching (less than 10% in most cases). That doesn’t mean taking sales people out of the field every week for training courses. They use content management and delivery technology for their learning programs that can be accessed all the time (from a central, trusted source).
Automating the workflow around the content, collateral, pricing, messaging, and technologies best suited to closing business is a hallmark of these winning sales organisations. That’s where the third pillar, technology, comes in. Being proactive with the content delivery gives their sales teams the information and “how to” knowledge just when they need it so they can engage customers with the right conversation and differentiate their offering more effectively.
Now what about the 20% wasted time?
Well the leaders have already saved that time and are using it to great effect.
There is a slight “Catch-22” if you want to join in. You have to make time to save time. You have to commit the company to the discipline of sales enablement, but that can be about refocusing of existing resources rather than large spending.
I’ll use the sports analogy again. Small improvements to counter a weakness or improve an action can have a significant positive effect on results. Winners only need to be marginally better, but consistently, and that takes skill and practice. Winners spend their non-competing time learning, practising and preparing. Their coaches study what is needed and help them get the best from themselves.
The same is true of a B2B sales organisation. You want a repeatable process that’s measurable with a skilled workforce. You must also be able to adapt to necessary changes faster than your competitors. You can’t achieve it over night. It’s a continuous campaign of improvement in small steps. A small increase in revenue or the win rate of deals or the number of sales reps hitting target will be great, not to mention the effect on morale and confidence.
One more statistic: the leaders have significantly better retention of sales staff than the others ….. it’s more enjoyable to play for the winners than the losers.