Our research for the latest State of Sales report found that customer satisfaction is a leading KPI, so sales teams need to look to technology to balance this with the number-two KPI- quota attainment.

Customer expectations are soaring to new heights on the back of technological innovation, and driving salespeople into unfamiliar territory. Where salespeople were previously confined to the purchasing step of the customer journey, they are now having to cultivate customer relationships, provide instant, tailored services and advice, and becoming responsible for their customers’ success.

To help guide salespeople through this new terrain, Salesforce Research surveyed more than 2900 sales professionals worldwide for the Third Annual State of Sales report and found out what the teams that are thriving in this environment are doing differently. Here are the key findings.


1. Customer satisfaction and success are top KPIs - this is affecting quota attainment


We already know that 58% of consumers and 77% of business buyers feel that technology has significantly changed their expectations of how companies should interact with them.

Being on the frontline, it’s often up to salespeople to deliver the personalised, consultative experiences customers look for, making customer satisfaction the most-tracked sales KPI.

As salespeople become increasingly responsible for customer success, selling time has reduced to one-third of the working week. As a result, only 42% of salespeople expect to meet their quota this year.  


2. AI to the rescue


AI is only new in sales organisations, but it is quickly becoming a staple. This new level of intelligence and automation is set to dramatically boost productivity by streamlining salespeople’s most difficult tasks, including lead prioritisation and data entry. Better still, research shows that teams that are currently using AI are actually expanding their ranks at a faster rate – AI is not replacing human workers, but augmenting their capabilities.

Sales leaders expect that adoption of AI will have grown by 155% by 2020.

3. Data insights are helping to improve customer relationships


The availability of rich data and ability to glean insights from it are creating more effective methods of lead prioritisation and forecasting, which drive success in top sales teams.

Today, twice as many teams rank leads based on data analysis than on intuition. By using data to identify the individuals or accounts with the greatest propensity to buy, salespeople can focus on building valuable relationships with the right prospects.


4. Internal free-flowing customer data is key to frictionless CX


As customers continue to expect a seamless and personalised experience at every step of their journeys, businesses will need to break down their silos and embrace a free internal flow of customer data. Eighty-one percent of teams say a connected view of data across the customer journey is important. Top teams are more than twice as likely as underperformers to have the integrated systems that are critical to such a view.


5. Virtual selling is becoming the norm


Relationships will always be fundamental to sales success, but the way salespeople develop relationships with their customers is changing. Not surprisingly, research shows that over the past three years, virtual connections with customers have increased 3.2 times more than in-person meetings with customers. Staffing models are following suit, as teams add inside sales reps and sales development reps.

Learn more about how new trends are changing the role of sales in the Third Annual State of Sales report.