Richardson Sales Training’s annual research survey of field reps, senior sales professionals, and sales leaders across industries aims to paint a clear picture of new and existing sales challenges and how they are evolving. The 2017 report highlights a challenging sales environment driven by ongoing shifts in buyer behaviors, competitive pressures, and operational trends. It also suggests that there has never been a better time to understand, challenge, and change how sales are made. With unprecedented access to mobile and digital technologies, sellers can understand their buyers better than ever before, creating new opportunities to build lasting engagements in today’s hyper-connected world.
The new customer expectation — regardless of industry — is one of value and trust. As a result, sales success in 2017 and beyond means acting as a true business advisor by delivering value through authentic curiosity, prepared relevancy, and unmatched credibility.
Results Summary of the 2017 Selling Challenges Research Survey
The annual Richardson Selling Challenges research survey was designed to gain insight into the issues and obstacles sellers face as they navigate the corporate sales process from prospecting through closing. Productivity was top of mind, drawing the largest response, as 49% of respondents cited “spending too much time on administrative or non-selling activities” as their biggest sales challenge.
The second-largest response, at 26%, was “knowledge about how to team sell effectively” and — for challenges facing buyers in making purchasing decisions — “combatting the status quo.” Questions about negotiating and closing received the third-largest response, at 24%, in which the top sales growth challenges were “gaining higher prices” and “competing against a low-cost provider.”
These results are consistent with trends in the selling environment, with its fast pace and high demands for productivity. Time is a precious commodity, and sellers must use it wisely. Sellers must also adapt to new buyer behaviors and more decision makers at the table, learning effective strategies for demonstrating value and closing deals.
Today’s selling environment presents tremendous opportunities for corporate sales professionals who understand the changing dynamics at the buyer’s table. Sellers, like buyers, have a world of information at their fingertips — along with sales and marketing enablement tools and the collaborative efforts of marketing in nurturing warm leads.
Sellers need to use these available tools to understand not just their own product or service, but their buyer’s needs, internal political environment, buying cycle, and both who the seller competes against and who the client competes against.
The challenges facing sellers today keep us at Richardson committed to our work in helping sales organizations improve their performance, making stronger connections with customers, and gaining confidence in their power to sell.
Selling Tips for 2017
Richardson has compiled a list of key insights for organizations and their reps as they face these common sales challenges:
- Prospecting: A successful prospecting strategy is comprised of dedicated time and focus in the following areas: identification of the right prospects (depending on a well-documented ideal client profile); identification of contacts and triggers; market, organization, and contact research; tailoring of targeted messages and insights; networking; cold and warm calling activity; social prospecting; referrals; and effective time management. Sellers need to attack these areas with a specific game plan and stick to it. Every week, no matter the gap to goal, sellers must dedicate time to growing their portfolio. Sales enablement tools can give sellers better visibility into their target prospects and the issues that they face, laying the groundwork for developing an executable strategy. Marketing departments can provide a wealth of information about prospects, allowing sellers to be more strategic in how they use their time.
- Negotiation: Trust and credibility are keys to managing relationships with customers and closing win-win deals. Sellers can’t claim trusted advisor status; it has to be earned. Being a trusted partner begins with integrity but also requires skill and strategy, which can be learned and practiced. Sellers need a process for how to negotiate a win-win deal, understanding when and how to unlock a deadline and when it’s best to walk away.
- Closing: In today’s information-rich environment, buyers have the world at their fingertips, but the sheer volume of data can be overwhelming, making it harder to reach consensus, much less a decision. More information doesn’t always translate into accurate, clearer understanding. This is where sellers can add value by helping buyers diagnose their unique situations and identify the best solutions so that they can make an informed buying decision that drives the results they desire. Creating a compelling case doesn’t just mean sharing impact data. It must be impact that is specific and relevant to that buyer.
- Buyers’ Decisions: Creating a compelling case to combat the status quo doesn’t just mean sharing impact data. As mentioned earlier, impact shared must be specific and relevant to your buyer. To combat the buyer’s status quo, sellers should highlight the loss or risk associated with not changing. Address missed opportunity costs — the benefits unrealized — by staying put, and outline a clear path forward to make the change decision easier to make. Remember, buying is an emotional process. Don’t forget to highlight the opportunities and potential for your buyer as well.
- Productivity: When sellers find themselves consumed with administrative or operational work, it’s hard to focus on sales and closing new deals. This can also happen when sales professionals babysit their accounts because they don’t trust their own service and support people to do a good job. Managers need to be aware of what’s going on and who is doing what work — and it is the manager’s job to remove obstacles so that sellers can get back to selling. Sales enablement tools and sales effectiveness training can help teams stay on top of their game without sacrificing too much time away from the field. At Richardson, we created Accelerate™, a blended-learning, cloud-based platform that works either as a standalone online solution or in conjunction with minimal classroom time in which selling skills learned online are modeled and practiced.
- Team Selling: Pivotal meetings with clients and prospects now often involve more people — on both sides of the table. Team Selling requires a different process, one that spans five natural stages: creating your team, organizing its work, practicing your pitch, executing when it counts, and regrouping afterwards to execute and grow. Richardson Senior Coach, Michael Dalis, has studied the topic of Team Selling for his new book “Sell Like a Team: The Blueprint for Building Teams that Win Big at High-Stakes Meetings”.
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