4 Truths About Corporate Sales Processes
At the heart of every successful business is the ability to sell products and services. But as crucial as selling is, many traditional sales processes are flawed. And these flaws make it much harder for salespeople to sell more products and services. As a result, companies are not seeing high enough returns on their significant investments in sales processes.
This is the conclusion of a recent study by Accenture and CSO Insights, which polled 1,200 sales executives. From this research, Accenture identified four important truths:
The Sales Talent Situation Is Dire
The survey found that companies are not doing enough to keep their best salespeople. Nearly one-third (30 percent) say that the retention of top talent is an area in which they need to improve. More than half (59 percent) say they can "hire out of this problem" and plan to increase their sales head count this year. But almost half (44 percent) say they need to improve who and how they hire.
Sales Processes Are Immature, So Adoption Is Poor
Many of today's salespeople are burdened with too many responsibilities that don't involve selling. In fact, the Accenture/CSO Insights survey reveals that salespeople only spend about a third (34 percent) of their time selling. Compounding this problem, only half (51 percent) of companies use a formal sales process, while less than one-tenth (8 percent) employ a sales methodology. Furthermore, slightly more than half (55 percent) of forecasted opportunities result in lost sales or no buying decisions.
New Technology Is Not Used Effectively
The wave of new technologies is supposed to make salespeople sell more effectively. To achieve this goal, processes needs to be refined. Nine out of 10 salespeople use their tablet devices to read emails, yet only a few (6 percent) know how to capture a customer signature on these devices. Exacerbating this further, only about one-fourth (28 percent) have formal policies and programs on tablet use.
Operating Models Are Inefficient
Identifying a qualified sales lead is central to the sales process. But nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of sales and marketing organizations lack a formal definition of such leads. Also, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) face challenges handling leads effectively. And only 15 percent say that at least three-fourths of their qualified sales leads result in a customer discussion.
Steps to Improve Sales Processes
A first step to overcoming these challenges is abandoning siloed sales processes. Silos impair collaboration between marketing, sales, and service groups, and misalign priorities. Companies should seek to place customers at the center of the sales process by integrating and standardizing sales structures. This could enhance working relationships between marketing, sales, service, and external companies. Tighter integration will make it easier to achieve consistent, predictable, and measurable customer experiences.
To further improve sales processes, companies need to make them more agile by:
- aligning sales investments more closely with profit generation;
- using a price strategy that monitors outcomes to boost profits; and
- uncovering the "DNA" of high-performing sellers and applying those insights to the sales model, role, and enablement.
In the past, the path to purchasing products and services followed a linear progression, from customer discovery to evaluation to purchase and use. But the new, nonstop customer structure requires a more dynamic, accessible, and continuous sales process. This means interacting with customers during all phases of sales, including discovery, evaluation, purchase, and use. Companies that want to succeed need to serve customers around the world consistently, faster, and at higher satisfaction levels.
Yusuf Tayob is a managing director with Accenture’s Communications, Media and Technology group in Management Consulting. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.