Selling in the Age of Ceaseless Change: The 2018-2019 Sales Performance Report was recently released by CSO Insights, the highly respected research division of the Miller Heiman Group. (Those of you who are students of sales will recognize Robert Miller and Stephen Heiman as the authors of the landmark Strategic Selling books and training programs.)
Surprisingly, win rates, new business generation, and margins have stayed remarkably consistent for decades despite a revolution in many areas of sales.
The report identifies four key concerns, as stated by nearly 900 global sales leaders:
- Improving lead generation
- Winning new accounts
- Expanding sales to existing customers
- Boosting win rates
Those of you who have been tracking these surveys will notice these are the exact same concerns of sales leaders 100 years ago, as listed in The 1918-19 Sales Performance Report (just kidding). The report states, “While much in the world of sales is changing rapidly, sales results have not changed much.” This is undoubtedly true. Ever since the Phoenicians started selling clay pots:
- Owners have been complaining they can’t find good salespeople.
- Salespeople complain they don’t get enough leads.
- Customers work to bargain down the price.
Yet there have been significant advances and improvements to the sales process:
- Sales automation with tools such as Salesforce and other CRM programs
- Marketing automation with literally thousands of highly effective programs and tools
- Data-driven analytics on everything from sales cycles to lead scoring to win probabilities
- Salesforce reorganization, leading to fewer outside salespeople and more marketing, inside sales, and lead-generation personnel
- Specialization in applications and vertical markets
Even so, win rates are flat and sales skills are declining. According to the report, “Sales leaders considered their teams to be less effective at 15 of the 16 (sales competencies) than they were five years ago.”
How can this be? It’s not that the salespeople are getting worse; it’s that the customer buying behavior has changed. It’s harder to get appointments, it’s harder to get people on the phone, and it’s harder to get the buyer’s attention.