New benchmark research highlights 5 sales performance fails that contribute to sales teams missing quota
We are all well aware of the statistic that 53% of salespeople fail to hit their quota—and many claim that number will only continue to climb. I don’t think many sales leaders need to be told that, though. You’re living that reality every day. You know that attaining your revenue goal continues to ride on the shoulders of just a small segment of your sales force.
Those star sellers carry the rest of the team, while your enablement and management organizations struggle to onboard, train, coach, and develop an almost continuous stream of new hires, who are thrown into the revolving door with little hope of ever breaking from the middle of the pack. You tell yourself that this is just how it’s always been done, all while sales performance fails to improve quarter over quarter.
Could more of your sellers be closing more deals? Based on our recent research, the answer is a resounding YES!
While many sales leaders inspect the activity of their team to understand how to attain their goal, activity management isn’t solely responsible for sales performance. If you have reps on your team who cannot properly articulate your message and move the conversation forward, it doesn’t much matter how many cold calls, discovery calls, or follow-ups they are completing. They don’t have the skills to effectively close the deal and no activity metric is going to get them there.
Every interaction your sellers have with prospective clients is critical to getting them to their goal. That is why we assessed over 32,000 sales conversations and analyzed the results. This analysis unveiled five critical skills that the average sales rep struggles to effectively implement within the sales conversation.
Sales Performance Fail #1: Telling an Effective Client Story
Our brains are wired to seek out stories. Stories give us a glimpse into what our lives could be like if we make the same choice that others have already. However, 59% of sellers do not tell an effective client story within the sales conversation. Client stories are important to your process because they provide tangible proof of success and a vision of what life could be like for prospective customers. They also assure your prospects that they will be in good company, should they decide to move forward with the relationship.
Our assessment did not just focus on the existence of a client story (23% did indeed tell a client story, but failed to make it engaging and/or relate it specifically to the prospect’s situation). In order to be effective, a client story must be tailored to your prospect’s persona, industry, business need, and/or specific pain points. It must also incorporate a compelling narrative and arc to captivate your audience into relating to it.
It is relatively easy to teach sellers how to tell an effective client story. Sellers should be equipped with available stories that align to customer needs, profiles, industries, pain points, etc. Given the information, your sellers then need to practice incorporating the story and making it their own. If appropriate, it is also often helpful to provide slides that sellers can include in their decks that help illustrate the key points of each story.
Sales Performance Fail #2: Engaging Delivery
In most companies, sellers are given a script or “talk track” to help guide them through the sales conversation. While this is necessary to optimize your sales process and maintaining your message, sellers do need to learn how to make it their own so they can deliver it in a natural, conversational, and compelling way. This is a key skill that separates top performers from the rest of the pack.
Our assessment found that 56% of sellers are not delivering an engaging message to their prospective customers. While most salespeople can hit the key talking points, features, and positioning marks, few can make them come alive for the person on the other side of the conversation. Many people think this is a skill reserved only for “natural-born salespeople”, but it is absolutely a skill that can be taught and learned—with a bit of practice.
Train your sales reps to do their research, ask engaging questions, tell a compelling client story, and be unexpected. There is nothing like throwing a little curveball into the conversation to bring your prospect back into the meeting and stimulate a reaction.
Sales Performance Fail #3: Value Proposition
Your sellers can likely recite your company’s value proposition in their sleep. But that just may be the problem—they sound like they’re sleeping when they try to articulate it to prospects. Our analysis found that, at the end of 50% of sales calls, prospects do not know what the company does or the value that it can provide.
The whole point of the sales call is to clearly articulate what, how, and potentially why your solution solves the prospect’s specific business problem. When sellers fail to engage prospects in your value proposition, they are wasting the most important opportunity your company has to establish an on-going, mutually beneficial relationship.
Most companies will attempt to mitigate this issue with scripting, training, and, perhaps, message certification. But this just scratches the surface. Sellers need to be able to apply your company’s value proposition to specific scenarios that make it relevant and valuable to different prospect’s needs. They also need to be able to deliver it in an engaging manner, not just recite it.
Sales Performance Fail #4: Differentiation
After 47% of sales calls, prospects do not have a clear view of how your solution differs from your competitors. The main gap here is that sellers tend to equate differentiation to pricing and features.
Differentiation is a core sales skill that leadership expects all sellers to be able to do. But that expectation is being taken for granted when 47% of your sellers are not able to articulate these differences! They are actually creating more harm than good by taking calls with your customers and prospects. In fact, we found that a full 6.29% where providing absolutely no differentiation at all!
More often, we find that sellers talk about features, rather than specific benefits to the client. To effectively differentiate, sellers must be trained to focus on customer needs and how your solution is uniquely capable of filling that need. Features and pricing do not differentiate your solution from your competitors.
Sales Performance Fail #5: Creating a Vision
A full 43% of sellers do not effectively create a vision of use for prospective customers. Without that clarity on how they would use the solution, your prospects likely do not have much urgency to purchase. They know they have an issue that needs to be solved, and they’ve identified you as a potential resource, but if they don’t see specifically how your solution is going to translate to pain relief for their life, they are likely to either continue with the status quo or continue looking for a solution that will fit their needs.
Your marketing and/or business development departments have done some heavy-lifting to get prospects to the stage in the buyer’s journey that they are talking with sales. To lose them simply because they don’t have a clear understanding of how it works is just a tragedy!
The solution comes back to being able to tell a compelling story. Integrating a client story into the discussion provides prospective customers with a vision of use. Also, make sure sellers are doing their research and understand the prospect’s business so they can effectively align your solution with prospective customers’ needs.
Could your sales reps be closing more deals? Absolutely.
But the ability to do so will not just come from optimizing your tech stack or requiring more activity. These adjustments will result in only marginal improvements, at best. Optimizing the conversations your sales reps are having with prospects and customers will yield greater returns with a relatively lower amount of investment.
Begin improving your team’s conversation performance by downloading the full Sales Performance Benchmark Report. Discover what skills other sales organizations focus on to improve their sales interactions and gain specific, actionable coaching tips that sales leaders and frontline managers can start using today to improve sales interactions.