The Real Source of Sour Sales

Dips in sales numbers may not be a result of economic conditions, but more about outdated sales practices that fail to focus on the customer, according to a recent Accenture study. "What we've seen is that four or five years ago, when the economy was flying high, sales representatives sold with little effort," says Troy Miller, an associate partner at Accenture. "In the present economy some of the problems and inefficiencies are coming more evident." The study also shows that management is aware of the problem: 41 percent of the respondents said that sales are "good, but not outstanding," 28 percent said their companies' sales performance is "average," and 26 percent said that their sales results are "below average." Study participants said their sales teams are not ineffective due to a lack of potential customers, but how they manage those leads. For instance, only 38 percent of respondents said they believe that their companies were not generating enough leads, yet more than half (55 percent) said they believe that their sales organizations could not adequately analyze leads, and 47 percent reported that leads are often not properly handled. "There has been a lot of time and money spent in organizations around sales force automation from an administrative point of view," says Eric Gist, a partner in Accenture's Customer Relationship Management service line and author of the report. "But instead of administrative automation, what sales agents really need are tools that help identify the right customer--tools that can really alter the sales force's behavior around the sales process for the better." Among organizational changes considered most likely to improve sales performance, refocusing the sales force on high-value customers or opportunities was the top choice, selected by 30 percent of respondents. This was followed closely by better integrating sales and marketing functions (28 percent), and by persuading the sales forces to sell solutions rather than products (23 percent). Asked to identify technology changes with the most potential value, the majority of respondents (76 percent) said that better tools to capture and analyze customer data would do the most to improve sales. Gist agrees that more predictive analytics are needed in organizations where sales effectiveness is lacking. "There's a lot of analytics that can prompt the sales agent to take action, giving the opportunity to cross-sell or generate additional revenue in some other way," he says. "Analytics for the most part have been about 'Who have my best customers been?' but now it has to be about 'Who will the next best customers be?'"
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