What’s the difference between a problem and a predicament? In as few words as possible, a problem can be solved and a predicament must be endured. Shifting the way you think about your top sales challenges, in this context, may just help when it comes to allocating resources and getting a more peaceful night’s sleep. Let’s look at the top six challenges identified by sales leaders in a recent study we commissioned, by USC professor and sales author, Steve W. Martin, to see how a new lens may provide fresh perspective.
- The long ramp up time before new reps become effective was identified as the number one sales challenge by 79% of respondents in the study. Is it solvable? Certainly you can throw technology that enforces best-practices at the problem and solve much of it, but the predicament still remains. You make a good hire, bring the newbie on board and arm them with an arsenal of training. They jump in with an energetic swan dive but then languish into mediocrity. What to do? Training is a leading topic of conversation in the industry right now and options are abound. Refine your training program and then sit back and watch the select few who charge to the top. Use technology to help the others emulate the best performers.
- Keeping the pipeline full can be both predicament and problem. Your sales reps likely see this as a never-ending predicament and often point to lead quality when the pipeline is weak. Ask the marketing team and they’ll surely tell you the issue is about follow-up and follow-through. Both could have a point, but recent Velocify research shows that 1/3 of sales leads never receive a call-back from sales teams. So being more thorough (and honest) about lead-waste can help you see at least a portion of this as a solvable problem. Employing the right technology can help sales reps respond immediately to leads and be persistent in their follow-up with little to no guesswork involved.
- Hiring and retaining sales talent takes talent. It’s an ongoing predicament and a future predicament too, given the massive trend of field to phone based sales teams taking place today. If you’re hiring inside reps, you definitely need a strategy going forward, as the war for experienced talent heats up. Also, remember that retention is more cost-effective than hiring and training new reps.
- A long sales cycle – is it a problem or predicament? Both. Technology can be used to predict and improve the process around converting prospects into customers; however, much of the sales cycle length is often tied up in the dynamic that exists between your product, your processes, and the buyer. Steps can be taken to better understand the prospects challenges, ask the right questions and handle the lead appropriately and diligently. A recent Salesforce.com blog post offers some sound advice in 3 proven ways to shorten your sales cycle.
- Reaching the decision maker is a predicament we must endure. Even your luckiest and most skilled sales reps struggle to find and connect with decision makers. And with the frenetic pace of business today the issue has only gotten worse. Of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything about it; it simply means we have to stay agile and adapt to the increasing complexity as best we can. Here are ten new ways to reach the decision maker from a previous Velocify blog post that can help.
- Competitive differentiation is a problem that every organization has and it extends well beyond the crafty words and efforts of a salesperson. It’s fundamental and starts with company strategy, product development, and then on to marketing, selling, and support. Everyone has a role and if you get it right, this problem will shift to your service organization as they struggle to keep pace with all the new business coming in. And don’t forget, the best ideas aren’t always the ones that win in the marketplace. A sharp sales and marketing approach can make all the difference.
For more information on the top sales challenges identified by sales leaders today and more than a dozen pages of other survey insights, you can download the complete “Trend Changing the Sales Landscape” study here.
About the author: John Reese is vice president of marketing at Velocify and board member of the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals, Orange County Chapter. With more than 17 years of marketing, strategy, and management experience at Fortune500 and early-stage technology companies alike, he oversees growth strategies for Velocify’s complete solution portfolio.