When we embarked on our journey to uncover the key capabilities that determine success in B2B sales we weren’t sure what we’d find. Our own work with salespeople across different industries indicated that high performers shared many common qualities. But we couldn’t be certain that this would hold true when scaled-up to include multiple studies encompassing more than 20,000 salespeople globally. Remarkably, however, our analysis revealed a strikingly consistent picture of what great looks like in B2B sales.
The results are there for all to see in our Acuity whitepaper; 9 key Capabilities (drives and behaviours) that determine success in what we refer to as a strategic sales environment; strategic due to factors such as the complexity of the solution being sold, its high value which draws in multiple decision-makers, and the effect that has on increasing purchase indecision and the length of the sales cycle.
But does the Acuity research translate into real-world businesses? When working with clients we always recommend that they allow us to undertake a validation study, to determine their organisational ROI. Validation studies can take various forms but essentially involve comparing actual sales performance to sellers’ Acuity profiles. In one example we used our psychometric self-assessment with a healthcare insurance provider to compare in-role performance to Acuity results. Analysis of the data showed that the single biggest differentiator between the Top 1/3 salespeople and the rest was Connectedness.
Another validation study within a media business used self-ratings from our Acuity 360 tool to evaluate each salesperson. Regression analysis was used to identify the most predictive Acuity Capability and, here again, it was Connectedness. In terms of ROI, sellers in the top 50% of Acuity profiles delivered an average of 23% more in sales revenue per month than their peers.
Clearly Connectedness is an important driver of success. But what does being connected mean? In our definition it is about developing networks within one’s client or prospective client to build a better understanding of the key stakeholders, influencers and decision-makers. It also includes being well-connected internally so that colleagues can share intelligence, make introductions and support the sale. Crucially, it is about being proactive in seeking value from these networks by asking for referrals, recommendations and intelligence.
Top-performing salespeople who demonstrate Connectedness:
Build their external networks
Invest in their internal networks
Seek value from these networks
However, showing Connectedness on its own is unlikely to be enough to make someone a top performer. The original Acuity research identified 9 Capabilities in total that distinguished high performers from the rest. Dig further into the validation studies described above and the picture becomes less clear. If we take the 3 strongest correlating Capabilities in each case, then Connectedness comes out on top. However, for the media business that is followed by Goal Focus (alignment of one’s objectives to the goal they are trying to achieve) and Drives the Sale (taking control and creating momentum). For the healthcare insurer it is Interpersonal Style (how one flexes their own behaviour to maximise their interactions with different stakeholders) and Goal Focus.
Taking a further step back, we looked at the correlations for every Acuity Capability. In the case of the media business, all 9 capabilities showed a positive correlation with sales performance. For the healthcare insurer, six capabilities correlated with sales performance while the remaining three correlated with line manager ratings.
It is clear that being connected is a critical factor in determining success in B2B sales. Indeed, in these examples it is the most important factor. However, it is also true that it is not enough on its own. The precise order of importance may vary across sectors, and perhaps even among different organisations within the same sector, but for individual sellers to excel they must possess a wider will and skillset.
If you’d like to understand your organisation’s typical seller persona, clarify the development needs of your sales team or determine the ROI that Acuity could achieve for your business we’d love to hear from you.