A crucial part of updating a sales team’s approach to challenges is gaining an understanding of what challenges are affecting the rest of the industry. Richardson’s 2016 Selling Challenges Study is a comprehensive annual survey compiling responses from over 400 sales industry professionals, and addresses the top concerns across the sales industry. It covers questions related to the entire sales process from prospecting to closing deals.
Who are the respondents?
Of the 400 survey participants, 37% listed sales representative as their core role, while 43% listed sales manager.
58% of respondents listed their respective companies with revenues greater than £500 million. Participants had varying levels of sales expertise and vested interests in the specific sales challenges covered in the study.
Below is a look at some of the insights covered in the report.
Responding to sales signals
As the leading response, 16% of participants said identifying triggers/sales signals that indicate issues that can be resolved was their biggest challenge in prospecting efforts.
The continuing changes in B2B-buyer patterns impact prospecting, as selling partners are often found through online referrals, search engines, and research on social media. Today’s buyers are more aware of the solutions they want in order to grow their businesses. As a result, they often enter the sales conversation with definitive ideas of what they need.
Utilising social selling tools to prospect more effectively can help sales professionals identify potentially problematic buying signals. LinkedIn and Twitter provide a way to watch, listen, and learn from discussions prospects are having, understand their pain points, and note what is most meaningful to them and their business goals. In processing and understanding this information, sales professionals will be more prepared during actual conversations with prospects, and be able to better convey their own company’s value proposition in a targeted way.
The key to better negotiations
When asked what they thought would be their toughest negotiation challenge in 2016, 29.2% of respondents said that gaining higher prices was their biggest obstacle.
Procurement and the value-profit margin conundrum is an ongoing concern, one that presents a precarious balancing act throughout the sales industry. In many cases, procurement enters the picture after sales professionals have spoken at-length to various stakeholders within an organisation. Procurement is less concerned with the value of the services offered to their company, but rather the cost of those services in terms of the bottom line.
To avoid the potential pitfall of procurement at the end of a deal, sales professionals should incorporate procurement early in the conversation. They should also be prepared to ask for something in return should procurement require any concessions to be made.
Defining value to close a deal
Among those polled, 48% of participants indicated that competing against a low-cost provider was the biggest challenge in closing a deal.
With this concern coming from nearly half of all respondents, it is obvious that pricing is the primary factor in making the sale, irrespective of value and or quality of goods and services provided. Clients are becoming increasingly cost conscious, and sales professionals must prepare to work within budgetary confines that may not always be optimal.
To overcome this challenge, sales professionals must adapt and fine tune their skills with regard to defining value and offering insights to prospects during initial discussions. They can enhance these skills by 'doing their homework' and gaining a keen understanding of their clients’ and prospects’ businesses at both an individual and industry-wide level – as well as learning what is a measurement of success for the industry and prospect themselves. As is the case with dealing with procurement, sales professionals must be prepared to demonstrate a product’s value and return on investment to effectively close a deal.
Sales challenges takeaway
If one message can be gleaned from Richardson’s 2016 Study, it is that sales professionals must be more than just selling agents to maximise overall production, and offer greater expertise in business advisory and value creation for their respective clientele. Download the full report here.
By Meghan Steiner is the Director of Marketing at Richardson Sales Training. Meghan manages all demand generation and sales enablement efforts within the organisation with the goal of creating new business opportunities.