In the fifth edition of the “State of Selling” report, Salesforce Research surveyed more than 7,700 sales professionals worldwide to see how sales organizations are increasing value amid economic challenges, meeting changing buyer expectations more efficiently, and leaning into sales operations as a strategic partner. Using execution strategies to drive business success and convert all reps into MVPs. Here are four key findings from the report:
- The New Sales Mantra: Maximum Impact. Companies are moving away from high-risk strategies as they battle inflation, supply chain disruptions, regulatory uncertainty and political turmoil. Still, sales reps are under pressure to meet targets. This is a big challenge.
- Sales operations increase efficiency. Functionality is becoming increasingly important. Sales ops is expanding into a more strategic role, enabling reps to spend more time on customer conversations. Sales reps only actually sell 28% of their week.
- Agents strive to meet rising buyer expectations. Regardless of the channel, buyers are looking for sales representatives to meet them wherever they are on e-commerce platforms, social media networks and personal assistants. Buyers expect sales representatives to act as sophisticated, trusted advisors. Companies use an average of 10 channels to connect with buyers.
- The seller experience gets a second look. Companies are reviewing training programs and benefits, while improving territories and sales enablement tools to set employees up for success. The number of new hires is low, and a 25% turnover is expected in sales organizations over the next 12 months.
A deeper look at sales reports highlights these 10 key business trends in sales:
- Selling has become difficult – 69% of sales professionals agree that their work is difficult right now. 82% of sales reps say they need to adapt quickly to new sales methods. The top five challenges for sales are: 1. Supply chain issues, 2. Inflation, 3. Changing regulations, 4. Political instability and 4. Health precautions. Additionally, 70% of sales leaders say their sales organization is now taking fewer risks. To improve sales growth, businesses follow these top five tactics: 1. Improve cross-functional alignment, 2. Adapt to hybrid or virtual sales, 3. Improve data accuracy and volume, 4. Target new markets, and 5. Modernize tools and technologies.
- Companies use an average of 10 channels to sell to a customer. The report found that buyers expect sales organizations to show up wherever they are, including through email, social media and emerging channels. In fact, 57% of buyers prefer to engage with companies through digital channels. Companies report that nearly a third of the deals they close are entirely virtual.
- Buyers expect well-informed sales teams with sophisticated insights. The report found that 81% of sales reps conduct research before reaching out to buyers. It’s an eye-opening finding: 87% of business buyers expect sales reps to act as trusted advisors.
- Sales development is a team sport and requires business alignment. Cross-functional alignment is the #1 strategy of sales leaders. Two key statistics from the report: 81% of sales reps say sales help them close. But 82% of sales reps say aligning with other salespeople is at least somewhat challenging.
- Marriage experience should be better than wedding experience. The report found that 80% of sales reps believe maintaining close customer relationships is extremely important. Value-based communication, active listening, and follow-up/accountability are the top 3 ways sales reps maintain healthy relationships with customers after the sale.
- Effectiveness of sales operations is a key performance capability. The role of sales activities is increasing for sales organizations. In 2020, 54% of sales leaders said sales operations were critical to defining strategy — an increase from 65%. More than eight in 10 sales professionals say sales operations play a key role in growing a business.
- Most of the time, sales teams don’t make sales. As it stands now, reps only actually sell 28% of their week. The rest is made up of important but tedious tasks like deal management and data entry. Only 37% of sales professionals strongly agree that their organization is fully utilizing their CRM. The most useful CRM features for sales: 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 awash in tools and inundated with data. The report found that 94% of sales organizations plan to consolidate their technology stack in the next 12 months. To promote efficient sales, sales systems may prioritize integration around the most popular features in sales organizations: reporting, CRM functionality, and account/contact management. 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 critical juncture. A focus on efficiency and cost savings can bring greater urgency to adoption Artificial intelligence (AI). Only a third of sales organizations are currently using AI. In the next two years, an additional 20% of companies plan to do so. Eight out of 10 leaders and eight sales app experts say AI has at least moderately improved the use of reps’ time. High performers are 1.9 times more likely to use AI than low performers.
- Employee retention is still a concern for sales organizations. Sales organizations have recorded an average turnover of 25% in the last 12 months. As of September 2022, one in four representatives are looking for or planning a new job within 12 months. In all, almost half of the delegates were at least willing to leave if something better came along. At the same time, 85% of sales leaders say they struggle to budget for the numbers they need. That number could rise if economic changes force leaders to cut operating costs. Training is one way companies keep sales professionals engaged and productive. Sales professionals most often admit to receiving valuable coaching from their manager, but only 26% say it happens weekly. Only 53% of sales leaders use training solutions.
The outlook for sales is mostly optimistic. The report found that 75% of sales professionals are confident in reskilling their sales organization’s reps — up from 63% in 2020.
The sales position report is segmented by industry, country, company size and sales roles. Growth drivers for sales vary by industry. With increasing challenges and changing economic conditions, it’s no wonder why most sales professionals don’t expect quotas this year. To learn more about how sales teams plan to grow in the future, you can access the Sales Status report Here.
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