• March 1, 2019
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Sales Are Hitting Goals, Missing the Mark

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Though 94 percent of sales organizations hit their revenue goals and met their commitments in 2018, sales performance and productivity have not improved, according to a recent report by CSO Insights, the research division of Miller Heiman Group.

In fact, sellers today are no more successful than they were three years ago, even though for sales organizations, this marked the third straight year of growth, the firm concludes in its 2018-2019 sales performance report, titled “Selling in the Age of Ceaseless Change.”

Furthermore, though businesses are hiring sales reps and providing sales departments with additional resources, salespeople are neither winning a greater percentage of deals nor turning a higher percentage of leads into opportunities, the research finds.

As proof of this, it uncovered the following trends:

  • Compared to 2017, win rates remained steady at 47 percent—a number that should be growing.
  • Quota attainment also remained unchanged (at 54.3 percent) compared to 2017.
  • Sellers closed less than half of what they forecasted to close.
  • Less than a third of revenue (30 percent) came from new accounts.
  • More than two-thirds of sales organizations lacked a clear process for defining and nurturing leads.

The study, based on a global survey of nearly 900 sales leaders, looked at how sales organizations performed against several primary objectives, including improving lead generation, securing new accounts, expanding penetration into existing customers, and increasing win rates. The conclusion was that today’s sellers are struggling more than ever. Study respondents said 15 of 16 basic selling skills are worse than they were a year ago—and even worse than they were five years ago. Sellers today have difficulty explaining return on investment, engaging with decision-makers, or presenting solutions to customer problems, it finds.

“The objectives of sales leaders haven’t changed. Most continue to be focused on making their numbers while being effective with resources,” explains Seleste Lunsford, chief research officer at CSO Insights. “It’s a mistake to assume their sales organizations have a permanent set of customers or a permanent suite of sales technology and resources. These types of changes can either advance their organizations forward or leave them behind.

“In an age of ceaseless change, sales performance improvements are a continual quest that should remain a constant priority for sales leaders. This is why it’s so critical to assess performance year-over-year to gauge opportunity for improvement,” she adds.

Sales leaders also have a massive opportunity to earn substantial gains by getting sales systems running more effectively, the research finds. Not surprisingly, sales leaders aspire to transform the foundations of their sales systems, but, given the risks associated with large-scale changes, many only make small incremental changes instead, according to Lunsford.

This, she notes, “can be effective if such changes are implemented systemically. But often, we find this approach is too slow and limited in scope to help sales organization change fast enough to keep up with the markets.”

A key to accelerating sales transformation is to make continuous improvements, the report says further, noting that sales transformation isn’t a project that will ever reach a true conclusion. Rather, “it’s a ceaseless evolution that feeds off data and uses technology as a driver, not an enabler. And, above all, it ensures every action an organization takes is in full alignment with the customer’s journey.”

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