It would be hard to find a CEO who wouldn’t say that increasing revenue and reducing cost of sales is one of their top three or four goals,” says Jackie Quint, global director of sales enablement at Extreme Networks. In fact, 71% of C level executives say that sales productivity is critical for growth, according to “The Power of enablement: Bridging the Sales Productivity Gap,” a recent report from Forbes Insights and Brain shark.
Yet the job of those in the C-suite is to see the big picture for the entire company. So they view the sales function through another lens in addition to revenue—how it helps to meet or exceed corporate goals and objectives. “CEOs fundamentally don’t want to hear about tools; they don’t care,” says Walter Rogers, CEO of CCI Global Holdings LLC. “They want to hear about how to connect their end-point vision, such as productivity or profitability, to a strategy.”
CEOs don’t want to hear about tools, but if you are in sales you better know all about them.
As selling gets more costly and buyers become more informed, sales productivity continues to present challenges for all companies. The Forbes Insights/brain shark report compared how companies that exceed target sales, the winners, handle their sales and marketing, as compared to those companies that come in at or under their sales targets.
Here are four main areas that are key to why the winners exceed their sales targets:
1- Sales enablement is a potent formula for improving sales productivity (defined as revenue per rep). Companies succeed when the issue of sales enablement and sales productivity is top of mind for the management team. Sales enablement is a key focus for companies at the top of the productivity scale—59% of top-performing companies have a defined sales enablement role, as do 72% of all companies that report revenues more than 25% above plan.
When management pays attention to enabling their sales teams, it makes a real difference. The evidence is in the performance of “the rest” of the companies in the survey, or those not leading the way in sales. Only 30% of underperforming companies have a sales enablement role in their organizations.
2- Selling is about value. Because the buyer’s world has changed, and it is easier for people to research online before they even get to the point of contacting a salesperson, it is more challenging for salespeople to have high-value conversations and help the buyer on topics they haven’t already learned. There often is a disconnect between what the buyer expects and what the seller is able to deliver in a meeting.
81% of winners say the ability to sell value over price is the top characteristic of high performing sales people. Companies leading the way in sales productivity focus on enabling salespeople to consistently engage in these value conversations. The key differentiator here is consistency of the sales message. When asked to identify top challenges to productivity, 70% of top-performing companies report that the ability to deliver a consistent message is not a challenge at all, and in fact, they do it well. In contrast, only 37% of all other firms think they have a handle on this.
3- Content is the secret ingredient. Content facilitates effective sales conversations. Top-performing sales organizations know the key role it plays in sales productivity. Creating the right content and ensuring that sales reps can find it when they need it is a significant challenge for some companies. Getting that activity right is the secret to success.
67% of winners create content that is relevant to the needs of the customers they call on, and 63% proactively recommend content for specific selling situations.
“Don’t ask the salespeople to become librarians,” says Stephen Diorio, chief analyst, Forbes CMO Practice. “Put the content on the table—they shouldn’t have to look for it. A rep needs to be able to find the right content—right when he or she needs it.”
4- Winners understand the importance of aligning sales and marketing teams. These companies know that sales enablement is best addressed by having the function sit inside the sales organization and then work closely with teams outside sales as well.
61% of companies with a defined sales enablement function report strong alignment between their sales and marketing teams.