If you want to know what's trending in the sales industry, then look no further than Salesforce's State of Sales report. This report is released annually and identifies the challenges salespeople face as well as any trends and an overview on the sales future. We look forward to this report every year because it gives us the opportunity to better understand the challenges and opportunities sales organizations face. This blog post will highlight and summarize the main takeaways from this report. Get your free copy by downloading it from their website.
Note: Pictures and graphs on this blog post are all from Salesforce's report
The State of Sales report surveyed B2B, B2C and B2B2C teams of which:
- 71% were considered moderate performers
- 20% high performers
- 9% under performers (based on a decrease, steady growth or significant increase in revenue)
Although sales is seen as a very traditional type of career/role, its influence on business strategy execution is steadily growing. While the career may be considered traditional, the different tools and resources available to equip salespeople with are growing and ever-changing. This is due to the rise of cloud-based solutions in recent years.
Another big reason these tools are ever-changing is that now, more than ever before, customers have become more empowered and knowledgeable. As the report put it, "Technology-empowered and information-savvy customers now expect sales reps to be intuitive, knowledgeable, fast and personal." This type of empowerment has set new expectations for sales reps. Rather than being knowledgeable on only their product, sales reps are expected to be consultants. These reps should be knowledgeable on their customer’s industry and be able to anticipate needs. This is particularly important nowadays as 70% of consumers and 82% of business buyers claim that technology has made it easier to take their business elsewhere.
Knowing all of this, it’s fairly safe to assume that customers have become much more sophisticated and require more personalization than ever before. Consumers are now looking for value in not only the product but also the experience with the company. Innovation in new technologies that can provide reps with the ability to be perceived as experts by their customers is becoming extremely valuable.
Now, let's take a look at the core insights the State of Sales report provided.
Customer Experience Is Now The Top Sales Benchmark - Salesforce State Of Sales
6 out of the top 8 objectives listed by surveyors were customer-centric. In the past, we’ve seen that the top priorities for salespeople revolved around more traditional KPIs such as the sales process, organizational performance or account management. However, this year customer experience/success has taken the top spot. This could be for a couple of reasons. The first one is that, as previously mentioned, customer’s needs are becoming more sophisticated. This leads sales reps to the second reason (and issue) by recognizing that sales organizations struggle to track the customer experience because 1) it’s not easy and 2) reps are not equipped with the proper tools to do so.
Sales Becomes More Connected And Proactive - Salesforce State Of Sales
73% of consumers stated that they would switch brands if there is inconsistency in the levels of service across various departments of an organization. This means that it is time for all of the different departments to stop competing against one another and start working together to provide value to the customer across all channels. Sales professionals claim that this collaborative selling has increased productivity by more than 25%. This type of collaboration was also made evident in Hubspot's State of Inbound 2016 report when the report stated that sales and marketing departments have to work together in selling. Feel free to check out our key takeaways from this report on our blog post.
Another type of collaboration sales organizations should be looking into is building partnerships with other companies. Having the right partners whose mission and value align and complement yours can be extremely powerful on influencing your customer’s perceived value of your company. There is a strong correlation between the sales teams who are considered high performers and their ability to collaborate across all departments and with partners.
With customers looking for more personalization in the sales process, sales reps/organizations prefer to engage with them in person, on the phone and via email (in that order). This leads to sales reps having to make themselves available to customers as customer support and resources anytime, anywhere. This comes as no surprise and supports the original statement that customers are seeking for a valuable product and experience—both of which can be easily provided with the various cloud-based sales tools available.
Top Sales Teams Turn To Tech And Training - Salesforce State Of Sales
64% of sales reps are spending their time in non-selling activities. It’s no surprise that many sales reps and organizations feel that the majority of their time is taken up by doing administrative tasks. These tasks make it extremely hard for reps to allocate more time to sales. The activities that fall within the administrative umbrella include (but are not limited to) manually entering data, setting up calendar meetings, and account maintenance.
Sales organizations are beginning to look to the following solutions for their reps:
- Analytics - give each rep actionable insights on their customer’s data.
- Mobile - give reps the ability to access data/analytics whenever they want.
- Automation - save reps time from data entry, sending out emails, scheduling meetings, etc.
Intelligent Sales Takes Off - Salesforce State Of Sales
There is an expected 139% growth in the use of artificial intelligence for sales in the next three years. Deep learning to classify, predict and react to patterns within data is expected to grow by 122%. Predictive intelligence is third and expects to grow at 118% in the next three years.
It’s very clear that we are moving into an age where technology will be aiding sales reps in what is called smarter selling. This means that sales reps will spend less time tasked with administrative chores and qualifying/engaging poor leads. This new saved time can be re-allocated to focusing on closing on the high-quality leads—enhancing the effectiveness of each sales rep. This would be done through certain additional features such as product recommendations, lead scoring, automated email responses and even automated day-to-day administrative tasks. Sales teams who are thinking this far ahead and already implementing these types of technologies are expected to be leaders in their industry because they will be the best performing teams.
To summarize, the key takeaways are:
- Customer's needs have become more sophisticated which leads customer experience as the top KPI for salespeople.
- Companies are focusing on collaboratively selling within the different departments of their organization as well as partnerships in order to provide the best value and customer experience possible.
- Sales organizations are using technology to give their reps the opportunity to spend more time selling.
- Tech solutions leveraging intelligence (deep learning, machine learning, artificial intelligence, etc.) are slowly starting to take off. These can help automate many processes that will save reps time.
What are your thoughts on this report? We'd love to hear about the different ways you're leveraging technology as well as the challenges you may be facing in your organization.