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5 Key Trends All Sales Leaders Need To Navigate To Get The Best From Their Sales Teams

Prior to the pandemic, many organisations were already responding to the changing needs of buyers by undertaking sales transformation and digitisation programmes.  Research from Gartner conducted over the course of 2018 and 2019 showed that 87% of senior business leaders reported that digitisation was a company priority, whilst 66% of CEOs expected to change their company’s business model in the next 3 years.

However, these were not delivering the expected benefits, with 72% of leaders reporting that corporate digitisation initiatives were missing revenue expectations.  In fact, the ‘democratisation’ of information has, alongside other factors, created a sales journey that is more convoluted with 77% of buyers now describing the purchase process as ‘complex’.

The pandemic has further fuelled the digitisation and transformation agendas for sales.  A cross-parliamentary report in the UK (2021) argues that the pandemic “has accelerated the digital revolution in how we trade and exposed an acute skills shortage in professional business-to-business selling”.  A number of key themes have emerged that, whilst not new, have certainly become cemented over the last 18 months and have significant implications for sales leaders if they are to maximise the performance of their sales teams:

  1. More Of The Buyer Journey Is Online: McKinsey (2021) research shows that omnichannel interactions, already prevalent in B2B sales, are now the predominant path for customers.  A global survey by Bain & Company (2021) found that buyers and sellers alike prefer virtual sales interactions.  Even as face-to-face engagement has begun to re-emerge as an option, buyers demonstrate a clear preference for a blend of digital self-service, remote human interactions and more traditional approaches.  In the space of the last 12 months, the appetite for digital self-service, necessitated by global lockdowns, has cemented a pre-existing trend particularly at the early ‘discovery’ stages of the buying cycle.
  2. Buyers Have Too Much Information: Conversely, this rise in self-service buying appears to have exacerbated a trend we highlighted in our previous whitepaper which is one of sales complexity.  Gartner’s research shows that whilst the vast majority (89%) of buyers agree that the quality of information available to them is high, half (50%) also found it overwhelming and 43% said it was contradictory.  As a result, buyers report that two-thirds of the buying journey is spent on gathering, processing and deconflicting information.  With numerous stakeholders involved on the buyer side, each independently uncovering information from different sources, it is easy to see how buyers find it difficult to find agreement between themselves about how to proceed.
  3. Buyers Are Prepared To Buy ‘Big’ Online: Perhaps surprisingly, despite this lack of clarity a significant proportion of buyers are prepared to spend 6 figures or more with a wholly digital sales process; that is, without any interaction with a salesperson at all (McKinsey, 2021).  Research from Gartner suggests that when a salesperson is able to interact with a buyer, they can expect to get only 5% of their time and so their window to influence a purchase decision is extremely narrow.  This risks an increase in purchase regret from the customer, if the solution doesn’t meet their expectations, and reduces the likelihood of repeat business.
  4. Seller Capability Is Not Fit For Purpose: Only 54% of B2B salespeople are confident in their ability to close deals in the new environment (Salesforce, 2020).  84% of sales leaders say that they don’t have the sales talent they need to succeed in future (Miller Heiman) and just 22% report that they consistently hire sellers who succeed.  In the UK, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Professional Sales (2021) reports a shortage of sales, digital and management skills amongst sales organisations.  Clearly there is an urgent requirement for organisations to invest in developing their sales talent so that it is fit for the future.
  5. Sales Leaders Are Not Equipped To Support Salespeople: Allied to the dearth of sales talent, is the increasing expectation that sales leaders should play a key part in developing employees.  Gartner research shows that 42% of managers say they lack the confidence to develop the skills that employees need today.  Little wonder then that the average frontline sales manager devotes just 9% of their time to developing their direct reports.  So not only are sales leaders failing to hire well, they also appear to give too little of their time and attention to help individuals to adapt to the new sales landscape.  Sales leaders need to develop their own capabilities as leaders so that they can improve their recruitment and development of sales talent.

Whilst the capability of the individual salesperson is clearly important, they cannot perform at their best without effective leadership.  It is therefore imperative for organisations to understand what is required of sales leaders so that they can support them in bringing the best out of individuals to create high-performing sales teams within the increasingly complex and fast-moving context that we describe.

Jim Bloomfield is a Director of Bloojam Consulting with 20 years’ experience of using business psychology to develop salespeople and leaders. He is a member of the Association of Business Psychology (ABP) and the British Psychological Society (BPS) and has successfully helped some of Britain’s best-known businesses exceed their sales goals.

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5 Things To Look For If You Want To Supercharge Your Sales Training

If You Want Sales Training To Impact The Bottom Line, This Is What You Need To Know

At Bloojam we have put a lot of effort into understanding the key behaviours that determine success in B2B sales roles. In fact, our research has identified 9 key capabilities that are statistically proven to be exhibited by the top sales performers, those who deliver on average nearly 25% more revenue than their peers.

Unfortunately, we’re yet to come across a business that is full of top-performing salespeople. Add to that, too much of the sales training that is out there fails to have any impact upon sales performance at all.

So what can be done to support individuals to develop their sales capability and to maximise the impact of sales training? Most importantly, is there any evidence that any of this will lead to an increase in sales? And what should you look for when commissioning sales training for your business?

It’s not cool but our approach has always been led by facts and data. We favour science over speculation and so we have undertaken a wide-ranging review of sales studies and academic behavioural research to identify the 5 key things that you should look for if you want to supercharge your sales training:

  1. Measure impact on sales- Most sales training measures what an individual has learned and whether they are applying that learning in the real world. But the key thing to measure is what impact does this have on sales. If the learning fails to lead to an increase in sales, then it is money down the drain!
  2. Train behaviours that will shift the dial- If you want to change sales behaviours, that’s great. But you need to be confident that the behaviours you seek are going to lead to increased sales. Luckily for you, we know which behaviours will do that.
  3. Encourage goal setting- Too often what is learned in training is forgotten within weeks. A common practice in coaching, goal-setting encourages individuals to commit to changing their behaviour for the long-term. The key is to ensure that these goals are linked to the sales behaviours that are proven to drive greater sales performance.
  4. Focus on the Customer- Sales training that encourages sellers to consider customer needs and their buying experience is more effective than training that prioritises the organisation’s sales process and procedures.
  5. Bite-sized modules work best- The same content delivered in a modular format provides space and time for individuals to practice, review and receive feedback on their application of the course content. This approach is shown to lead to higher sales performance than the same content delivered in a single block.

So there you have it. Five things you should look for when commissioning sales training. If you’d like to know more about how we incorporate these methods into our Acuity Sales Training Academy take a look at our website or give us a call.

Jim Bloomfield is a Director of Bloojam Consulting with 20 years’ experience of using business psychology to develop salespeople and leaders. He is a member of the Association of Business Psychology (ABP) and the British Psychological Society (BPS) and has successfully helped some of Britain’s best-known businesses exceed their sales goals.

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The Case For Sales Skills In Professional Services

I have assessed hundreds of candidates who are up for promotion to more senior roles in professional service firms and I am yet to come across one whose burning desire is to become the top salesperson. Experts in their field, trusted partner to their clients, yes. But not a salesperson. The word ‘sales’ is rarely mentioned. Client management, business origination, occasionally business development, but sales? No, we’re a little more sophisticated here thank you!

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Good salespeople are low in empathy, aren’t they?

According to a recent YouGov survey, a majority of Britons feel that empathy is on the decline in the UK.  Are we turning into a nation of people who see events only from their own perspective? Are we less interested in other people’s views? And if this is the case what relevance does it have for sales?

Whether we’re being cold-called by our utilities provider to commit to a longer-contract with more add-ons for only an extra £7.50 a month or encouraged by our car insurance provider to add legal protection or no claims discount cover again for just a small increase in our premium, it seems that the customer is increasingly seen as someone who should be wrung dry for every available penny regardless of what their actual needs might be.

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The importance of the salesperson in complex sales

In a strategic sales environment, selling is complex:

Potential customers are more informed about both the selling organisation and their competitors. 82% of business buyers agree that technology has made it easier for them to take their business elsewhere. (State of the Connected Customer, Salesforce Research October 2016)
There are more individuals involved on the buyer side. The number of people involved in B2B solutions purchases has climbed from an average of 5.4 two years ago to 6.8 today (The New Sales Imperative, CEB 2017)
These individuals come from different departments and have different, often conflicting, goals and priorities. As a result, decision-making takes longer; 84% of customers report that their purchase process took longer than expected so that the average purchase decision now takes 4.9 months (CEB 2017)

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Do your technical experts have the Acuity to be successful in strategic sales?

Jo is a technically brilliant accountant who has worked hard to climb her way up to the upper echelons within a large management consultancy firm. Along with her strong technical skills, Jo has always been great with clients, providing an efficient, flexible and supportive service, building relationships based on trust, and providing insight and advice that really adds value.  Jo has just been promoted to Partner and she is delighted – with one exception: It’s the first time that Jo has been given a sales target to meet. Jo does not see herself as a salesperson. She knows she is great at what she does, but now she is also expected to bring in significant amounts of business and will be judged accordingly.