Establishing and maintaining a successful sales strategy has only become more challenging over time. Regardless of your industry, the field is getting crowded and audience behaviors are shifting. If sales teams are not adjusting – and adjusting quickly – they lose ground.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the challenge, with countless businesses struggling to meet their sales quota. But this is not a new problem. In fact, a 2017 survey had already found that 52% of sales leaders thought their outbound efforts were ineffective, while 32% of marketers considered outbound tactics to be overrated.
In other words, the sales industry is facing obstacles that go far beyond the past year’s budget and strategic uncertainties hitting every industry. When 57% of sales reps across industries expect to miss their sales quota, something is amiss. Hindrances to meet quotas have been gradually increasing for years.
In this blog, we will explore these obstacles in more detail. An understanding of what they are will allow us to build a strategic framework designed to overcome them.
Obstacle #1: Lack of Trust
It’s difficult to engage in effective prospecting, nurturing, or closing when your audience doesn’t trust you. Unfortunately, according to one survey, salespeople are among the professionals with the lowest trust level at a disappointing 3%.
In a crowded media environment (more on that below), along with a rise in robocalls, the sales profession has a reputation problem. A lower likelihood to build credibility with the audience is a natural obstacle to moving prospects through your funnel to meet quotas.
Obstacle #2: Increased Media Noise
Prospecting, whether it occurs in an inbound or outbound strategy, requires leveraging digital channels from email to social media. Unfortunately, these channels are becoming increasingly crowded. Experts now estimate that the average U.S. resident sees upwards of 5,000 promotional messages a day, a 10x increase over the past three decades.
New technology has made accessing these channels easier for marketing and sales efforts. But this also means that individual messages are increasingly crowded out, making it more difficult for sales agents to break through the noise with an effective, credible message.
Obstacle #3: Information Availability
We’ve fully entered the age of on-demand product research. Encouraged by an expectation of instant gratification and information at its fingertips, only 19% of today’s buyers expect to hear from sales reps during the research phase of their buyer’s journey. The vast majority instead expects readily available information as needed for self-paced research and consideration.
This shift, which has been especially drastic over the past decade, has led to struggles for sales teams still operating as the first and most important resource for potential buyers. More readily available information at the beginning of the buyer’s journey instead requires a shift towards comprehensive nurturing and closing efforts to move already-interested potential customers through the funnel.
Obstacle #4: The Follow-up Disconnect
In part because of the above obstacles, research by Gartner shows that it takes an average of 18 sales calls to actually connect with a prospect in a meaningful way. Buyers recognize their own attention limitations, and 75% expect a company to follow up two to four times before giving up.
And yet, 48% of salespeople never follow up, not even once. Among the others, 44% give up after a single follow-up attempt. With variables leading to an increased need for follow-ups, this disconnect between buyer need and sales team activity has become a significant obstacle to conversion success.
Obstacle #5: Lack of Buyer Insights
Closing the deal is among the most common challenges in sales. It also naturally connects to making or missing quotas; regardless of how many prospects are in the pipeline, they won’t impact revenue if they don’t actually turn into buyers.
However, less than half of all sales reps feel they have enough research and data available to truly understand their audience’s needs and pain points. Without the ability to truly connect a product’s features to these pain points, selling has become less effective over time, resulting in less revenue.
How to Respond to Raised Stakes in Modern Sales Environments
All the above obstacles would be in place even without the challenge multiplier COVID-19 represents. In this environment, meeting sales quotas has become increasingly difficult even as increased access to prospecting and sales technology has begun to level the playing field.
Overcoming these challenges requires a comprehensive rethinking that responds to increased competition and noise along with shifting buyer values and behaviors. The nuances of this strategy go beyond the scope of this blog; however, a few central steps can drive towards a better, more holistic strategy that will increase the likelihood of overcoming these challenges and reliably meet sales quotas.
- Find the Right Audience. Identify and connect with decision-makers through techniques like buyer personas and ideal customer profiles (ICPs). That helps not just find the right channels for your sales outreach, but also allows you to identify the right pain points to focus on.
- Become an Expert in Your Audience’s Buying Process. Learn as much as you can about the exact ways in which your buyers perform research, who they consult with, and when they expect to hear from you. The more you can build your sales funnel for the customer journey, the better.
- Build a Projection Model. Predict your sales pipeline to better understand how many deals you need to close, and what that means for prospecting and nurturing goals. As a result, you can build more realistic sales quotas, and better understand where tweaks in the pipeline could improve closed deals.
- Build your credibility. Simple steps like improving your data cleanliness and finding the right tone for your audience can make a big difference in gaining the trust of your audience. A conscious effort on providing value over promotional pushes can also help.
Prospecting, nurturing, and closing your leads may have increased in difficulty, but it’s still within reach through a sales strategy that puts the customer’s needs and preferences first. It does require work, of course.
Fortunately, you are not on your own and outsourcing is always an option. Contact us to learn more about how Sapper Consulting has helped sales teams survive and thrive in the modern prospecting environment.