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'Distraction': The Unintended Consequence of Sales Productivity Investment Strategies

By Special Guest
Jason Angelos, Managing Director, Advanced Customer Strategy, Accenture Strategy
September 27, 2016

Companies have invested billions in customer relationship management (CRM) systems and performance management solutions that promise to enhance sales productivity and bolster performance by giving reps more time to sell. But is the investment really paying off? Accenture Strategy’s Jason Angelos explores how strategies aimed at improving sales productivity have, in many cases, achieved the opposite effect. Pivoting from productivity to ‘outcome selling’ can help organizations unlock the performance they expect.   

In the digital age, data has become the ultimate currency, helping organizations better understand and connect with their customers in more meaningful ways. As consumer purchasing behaviour has evolved to become less predictable, more impulsive and ‘always-on’, sales teams have had the most to gain from unprecedented insight into their customer-base. To capitalize on the opportunity, organizations have invested significantly in solutions designed to make sales teams more agile and responsive. But the investment isn’t paying off.

According to Accenture Strategy’s 2016 CSO Insights Sales Performance Optimization Study, 59 percent of global sales executives say they have been bombarded with too many sales tools and too much disaggregated customer data to be effective. Another 55 percent say their sales tools are an obstacle to selling.

Instead of giving reps more time to sell, many are inundated with more information than they can effectively use or absorb, and are tied up with unproductive administration rather than running with sales leads. Consequently, ‘sales distraction’ is hindering performance, causing more than half (56 percent) of global organizations to miss annual sales forecasts.

The high cost of distraction

Sales enablement programs that are intended to boost productivity can have a debilitating impact on sales performance, causing diversions that distract sellers and pull them off course.

According to the research, just 22 percent of sellers’ time is taken up with lead generation, and only 36 percent of their average work week is spent selling. Sales productivity has also decreased from 41 percent five years’ ago, to 36 percent today. Another 58 percent of sales executives are concerned about achieving this year’s sales targets.

Boosting sales performance

Pivoting from productivity to ‘outcome selling’ – which helps sellers to hone in on the insights and actions that matter most, at the right time in the sales cycle, enabling a higher chance of conversion – can help them regain focus and deliver the tailored solutions and experiences customers expect.

To help sellers deliver the experiences customers crave and the offers they find meaningful, organizations can leverage technology to deliver predictive and prescriptive insights to sales. Analytics, big data and machine learning capabilities can bring the right insights to sales representatives, at the right time, empowering them with the information they need to deliver stronger customer experiences.

The steps to ‘outcome selling’ strategy

With a connected understanding of customers’ propensity to purchase and sellers’ behaviors, along with the power of predictive insights, sales leaders can cut through the noise of today’s selling environment and focus on active sales management techniques that bring the principles of ‘outcome selling’ to life.

Organizations can move to an ‘outcome selling’ 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, organizations 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: Organizations need to understand what differentiates the top sellers in their own business, and in the organizations 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 percent better than the peer average.

Tomorrow’s winners will connect customer and sales intelligence with active sales management and orchestration techniques, putting predictive insights into the hands of sellers exactly when they need them.

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