How high performing sales teams use technology to win in today's economy
Insights from more than 7,700 sales professionals on driving productivity reveals that selling is harder now than before the pandemic. Nonetheless, most sellers see a clear path forward by leaning more into technology.
Sixty-nine percent of sales professionals say selling is harder now versus before the pandemic, this according to the State of Sales 2022 report from Salesforce Research.
In the fifth edition of the "State of Sales" report, Salesforce Research surveyed more than 7,700 sales professionals worldwide to discover how sales organizations are maximizing value amid economic headwinds, meeting changing buyer expectations more efficiently, leaning more into sales operations as a strategic partner in business success and using enablement tactics to turn all reps into MVPs. Here are four key findings of the report:
The new sales mantra: maximizing impact. Companies are moving away from high-risk strategies as they battle inflation, supply chain bottlenecks, regulatory uncertainty, and political disruption. And yet, sales reps are under pressure to hit targets. It's a huge challenge.
Sales operations boosts efficiency. Operational efficiency is taking on growing importance. Sales ops is expanding into a more strategic role, tasked with enabling reps to spend more time in customer conversations. Sales reps spend only 28% of their week actually selling.
Reps strive to meet rising buyer expectations. Buyers are looking for sales reps to meet them wherever they are, regardless of channel: ecommerce platforms, social media networks, and personal assistants. Buyers then expect sales reps to act as sophisticated, trusted advisors. Organizations connect with buyers on an average of 10 channels.
The seller experience gets a second look. Companies are reviewing training programs and benefits, while optimizing territories and sales enablement tools to set employees up for success. New headcount is limited, and 25% turnover is expected in sales organizations over the next 12 months.
A deeper look into the State of Sales reports highlight these 10 key business trends in Sales:
Selling has gotten harder - 69% of sales professionals agree their job is harder now. And 82% of sales reps say they've had to adapt quickly to new ways of selling. The top five challenges for sales are: 1. supply chain issues, 2. inflation, 3. shifting regulations, 4. political instability, and 4. health precautions. In addition, 70% of sales leaders say their sales organization is taking fewer risks now. To improve sales growth, businesses are adopting these top five tactics: 1. improve cross-functional alignment, 2. adapt to hybrid or virtual selling, 3. improve data accuracy and quantity, 4. target new markets and 5. modernize tools and technologies.
Organizations use on average 10 channels to sell to a customer. The report found that buyers expect sales organizations to show up wherever they are -- on email, social media, and whatever emerging channels may come. Indeed, 57% of buyers prefer to engage with companies through digital channels. Companies report that nearly one-third of the deals they close are completely virtual.
Buyers expect well informed sales teams with sophisticated insights. The report found that 81% of sales reps say buyers increasingly conduct research before they reach out. This was an eye opening finding: 87%of business buyers expect sales reps to act as trusted advisors.
Sales growth is a team sport and it requires business alignment. Cross-functional alignment is sales leaders' #1 tactic for driving growth. Two key stats from the report: 81% of sales reps say team 81% selling helps them close. But 82% of sales reps say alignment with other sellers is at least somewhat challenging.
The marriage experience has to be better than the courtship experience. The report found that 80% of sales reps say maintaining customer relationships after the close is increasingly important. Value based communication, active listening and follow through/accountability were the top 3 ways sales reps maintain a healthy relationship with customers after the sales is complete.
Sales operations efficiency is a key performance capability. The role of sales operations is growing increasingly important to sales organizations. In 2020, 54% of sales leaders said sales operations was key to defining strategy -- a number that's since jumped to 65%. More than eight in 10 sales professionals say sales operations plays a critical role in growing the business.
Most of the time, sales teams are not selling. As it now stands, reps spend only 28% of their week actually selling. The rest is made up of critical, but tedious tasks like deal management and data entry. Only 37% of sales professionals strongly agree that their organization fully utilizes their CRM. Most useful CRM features for sales are: 1. process and workflow automation, 2. data entry automation, 3. intelligent customer insights, 4. integration with internal systems, and 5. ability to replace other sales tools.
Sales teams are drowning in tools and overwhelmed with data. The report found that 94% of sales organizations plan to consolidate their tech stack in the next 12 months. To promote efficient selling, sales ops can prioritize their consolidation around features most popular with sales organizations: reporting, CRM functionality, and account/ contact management, among others. The top 5 tools used by sales organizations are: 1. sales reporting and analytics, 2. CRM, 3. account and contact management, 4. mobile sales apps for employees and 5. sales forecasting tools.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is at a tipping point. A focus on efficiency and cost savings may bring greater urgency to the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI). Only one-third of sales organizations currently use AI. In the next two years, an additional 20% of organizations plan to do so. Eight in 10 leaders and sales ops professionals with AI say it has improved use of reps' time at least moderately. High performers are 1.9x more likely to use AI than underperformers.
Employee retention is still a concern for sales organizations. Sales organizations reported 25% average turnover over the last 12 months. As of September 2022, nearly one in four reps was either looking or planning to look for a new job within 12 months. In total, nearly half of reps were at least open to leaving if something better came along. At the same time, 85% of sales leaders say they are struggling to get budget for needed headcount. That number could climb if economic shifts force leaders to cut down on operating expenses. Coaching is one way organizations keep sales professionals engaged and productive. Sales professionals largely agree they get valuable coaching from their manager, but only 26% say it occurs weekly. Only 53% of sales leaders use coaching solutions. The outlook for sales is largely optimistic. Report found that 75% of sales professionals are confident in their sales organizations' ability to reskill reps -- up from 63% in 2020.
The State of Sales report was segmented by industry, country, company size and sales roles as well. Growth drivers for sales varied by industry. With challenges mounting and economic conditions shifting, it's little wonder why most sales professionals do not expect to hit quota this year. To learn more about how sales teams plan to grow in the near future, you can access the State of Sales report here.