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Mind the Gap! Five Gaps That Impact Sales Effectiveness and How to Fix Them

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richardsonsalestrainingDecember 11, 2013Blog

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There’s not just one big gap that impacts your sales effectiveness.

In fact, there are several gaps (or chasms, depending on the severity) that get in the way of achieving peak sales performance:

  • How a buyer buys and how your sellers sell (often the biggest gap)
  • Your marketers’ outputs and your sales force’s needs
  • How your organization trains and how much your sales reps retain and practice what they learn
  • Revenue forecasts and how your sales force actually delivers
Failing to close these gaps prevents sales forces from achieving their optimal success. The most forward-thinking organizations address this situation by establishing a sales enablement strategy — a dynamic and long‐term initiative that provides the thinking and the tools to engage sales reps, sway buyers, and inform marketers. It’s all about smarter selling that transforms sales execution into a repeatable, results‐oriented process that ultimately creates optimal alignment between your sales force and your customers’ buying processes.

A good place to start closing the gaps and embark on the path to smarter selling is to examine the critical components of the selling system that are most prone to failure. We’ll start by looking at the first two in this post and will save the rest for Part 2.

1. The Lead Failure: Nurtured leads poorly handed off create low conversion rates

  • Most Leads Languish: How many of your marketing-generated leads actually become sales? According to MarketingSherpa, 79% of leads aren’t nurtured through the sales handoff. If that’s true, then consider this related statement: only one in five leads are developed properly when handed off.
  • Savvy Buyers: Consumers are “self-educating” on their perceived needs, wants, and solutions before they ever talk to you. The ease with which anyone can spend a few minutes to research a problem and possible providers
  • (Lack of) Time: Sellers are spending nearly 20% of their time researching and generating leads.
The Fix: Making it faster and easier for your sales force to act

The top-line fix is to create (and sustain) better alignment between sales and marketing. They need to work together to develop campaigns, including target buyers, key messages, timing, processes, and follow-ups, in order to prevent a misfire. It never looks good when a great marketing campaign completely fizzles because sales was out of the loop or when a sales rep hears about a campaign for the first time from a prospect.

Sales reps need to think like their buyers and consider how someone might research their problem or need, solution, and potential vendors. This not only ensures that reps can anticipate questions and concerns from buyers, but also helps to identify information and promotion gaps to be filled by marketing. This requires an open channel of dialogue and feedback with marketing so that timely adjustments can be made.

Of course, higher-quality leads always trump large volumes of duds. No one has time to waste nurturing a non-lead. Marketing should refine its processes to be able to parse out browsers from serious buyers.

2. The ProcessThe Failure: Buyers and sellers are misaligned; lack of management visibility, team focus

According to SAVO’s Maturity Benchmark, fewer than 10% of companies report that they’ve mapped their sales process to their customers’ buying cycles. That pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey approach to sales all but guarantees wasted time, effort, resources, and especially difficulty in closing the sale. Companies that fail to recognize the importance of getting in stride with their customers’ habits and timing are guilty of thinking (and acting) inside-out as opposed to outside-in.

A common way that that scenario rears its ugly head is the disconnect between marketing materials and customer needs. In fact, the SAVO Maturity Benchmark has shown that 33% of new business losses could have been wins if the seller had been better informed. Sales reps shouldn’t have to bear the burden of trying to fit marketing’s square peg into the buyer’s round hole — that comes from leading with capabilities and strengths without specific regard to clients’ challenges and needs.

The Fix: Better alignment to buyer’s cycle, capturing prescriptives for success

The obvious fix would be to analyze your customers’ buying cycles and align to them. You are there to serve them, not the other way around. Both B2B and B2C consumers are aware of the vast amounts of data and information that are available about their individual and corporate preferences and buying habits. The quid pro quo is that companies will use that information to make every sale and opportunity appear as if it was tailor-made for each buyer. Otherwise, you appear inattentive, lazy, and out of touch, while a savvier sales rep can easily swoop in and look like a hero.

Along with being more in tune with buying cycles, sales can give marketing better information regarding why clients are buying so that those insights can be used to drive future campaigns. Don’t assume that “you know better” or “we know what our customers want to hear” and instead take a fresh approach that is more about them than you.

Alignment of Sales and Marketing Can Resolve Gaps

The common thread among these gaps and fixes is the need for sales and marketing to be better aligned. When they’re combative or just out of sync, no one wins. When they collaborate, they can create a formidable team that will make both teams more effective and able to respond to client needs more confidently and at the right times.

The next post on this topic will cover the remaining three critical components of the selling system that are most prone to failure: the meeting, the proposal, and the analysis.

This post is based on the white paper “The Five Failure Points of Today’s Selling System” by the SAVO Group. What’s your take? Has your sales organization experienced these gaps? How have you overcome them to make your teams more effective? Let us know in the comments below.

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