Organisations have invested billions in sales productivity solutions to enhance performance by giving sellers more time to sell – but the investment strategy is not paying off. According to new research from Accenture (NYSE: ACN) and CSO Insights, the research division of Miller Heiman Group, 59% of global sales executives say they have access to too many sales tools and are bombarded by too much disaggregated customer data to be effective. Another 55% say their sales tools are an obstacle to selling. Consequently, ‘sales distraction’ is hindering business performance, causing more than half (56%) of global organisations to miss annual sales forecasts.
The Accenture Strategy report, ‘Selling in the Age of Distraction’, examined the challenges impacting sales performance of global organisations with revenues of more than $1 billion, featured in CSO Insights’ 2016 Sales Performance Optimisation Benchmark Study.
“Current productivity investment strategies are overwhelming sales executives with too many sales tools, too much customer data and siloed insights, which have become a distraction. Many are inundated with more information than they can effectively use or absorb, and are tied up with unproductive administration,” said Jason Angelos, Managing Director, Advanced Customer Strategy, Accenture Strategy. “Pivoting from productivity to ‘outcome selling’ – which helps sellers to hone in on the insights and actions that matter most – can help them regain focus and deliver the tailored solutions and experiences customers expect.”
The high cost of distraction
The era of productivity has given rise to ‘the age of distraction’. Many sales enablement programs intended to boost productivity have instead contributed to diversions that pull sellers off course. According to the research, just 22% of sellers’ time is taken up with lead generation, and only 36% of their average work week is spent selling. Sales productivity has also decreased from 41% five years’ ago, to 36% today. Another 58% of sales executives are concerned about achieving this year’s sales targets.
“To help sellers deliver the experiences customers desire and the offers they find meaningful, organisations can leverage technology to deliver predictive and prescriptive insights to sales,” said Julian Short, Managing Director, Advanced Customer Strategy, Accenture Strategy. “The use of analytics and big data can bring the right insights to sales representatives, at the right time, empowering them with the information they need to deliver stronger customer experiences and profitable sales growth.”
Boosting sales performance
Organisations that want to boost their sales performance can shift to ‘outcome selling’ by connecting customer insights and actions that matter the most, and giving sales executives the best opportunity to deliver more tailored solutions. Organisations can move to this approach by:
1. Connecting customer insights: Crush the silos that slow efforts to capture and share customer insights across touch points – from call centres, kiosks, social media networks to sales and post-sales service channels. Also push past static profiles to understand customer behaviors and preferences, and identify the best opportunities for sellers to advise and influence customers.
2. Predictive insights: To help sellers deliver the experiences customers value the most, organisations should look to build predictive sales insights and an execution model to deliver them. Central to this vision is a sales intelligence hub, which delivers forward-looking recommendations to sales executives. The blueprint calls for next-generation analytics tools and data collection methods, predictive analysis, and detailed sales guidance for executives.
3. Top performer seller insights: Organisations need to understand what differentiates the top sellers in their own business, and in the organisations of their channel partners. To help position the right talent with the right opportunities, sales leaders need to understand as much about their top sellers as their customers. The research shows that when sales leaders leverage these insights through coaching sessions on how to implement an outcome-driven sales process, sellers perform 10% better than the peer average.