Sales managers face a number of dilemmas, some new and some long-standing, in building a sustainable growth engine. In the latter group is a tension between senior leaders and sales managers. Sales managers are heads down running the day-to-day business, while senior leaders want them to focus on transforming the sales organisation to meet future customer buying expectations.
While hitting numbers has always been a top priority, and a key metric for a sales leaders’ performance, thinking about what’s on the horizon, 12-24 months from now, will help sales managers keep hitting those numbers, even as new disruptions emerge. This is where the tension lives – between the numbers of today, and preparing for the customer and sales requirements of tomorrow.
To help leaders reconcile that tension, some of us like to keep a close eye on what’s shifting. That’s why I’ll be joined by Sydney-based sales expert Cian Mcloghlin in the Future of Sales webinar as we explore how sales is changing both globally and locally.
In the meantime, here are three trends that sales leaders should be keeping in mind, now and into 2022.
The funnel is set to flip
The sales funnel is a visual indicator that the buyer journey is a straightforward lead-to-prospect-to customer process. We know it’s never that simple. In fact, I’d suggest that buying is more fluid than the waterfall funnel we see today. Beyond the visual itself, it might do us good to flip the funnel and focus on how to get more prospects to start at desire and action, versus at awareness. Gather your most likely buyers at the narrow top end and have the wider bottom end of the funnel being constantly fed by marketing, sales and customer service. It’s a more accurate forecast indicator and shows you’ve done the smart work of fine tuning your leads.
Historically, sellers have often been reluctant to show the reality of where the buyer is in the journey and where they are in the sales process for fear of management giving them a hard time about deals potentially going backwards. But an accurate portrayal of those stages is critical. It’s what gives marketing the information they need to know what’s working and what’s not working. If sales and marketing are to align in the way we know they must to drive buyer enablement, the funnel – whichever way you position it – has to be a source of truth.
One of the most useful things you can do as a sales manager is to give your sales reps permission to present you with a truthful picture of where deals are in the sales process to better match where the buyer is in their process.
Performance metrics need an update
How many calls? How many leads? How many deals? How many proposals? How much revenue? Volume has been the focus of sales metrics for decades. But volume alone is no longer an accurate metric for success. Customers expect more from their interactions. Salesforce research reveals that 52% of customers expect offers to always be personalised, and 68% expect a demonstration of empathy. And here’s a great opportunity for differentiation – because only 37% of customers say brands are showing empathy.
While those ‘hard’, easy-to-measure metrics still play an important role, these figures reveal a need for more emphasis on collaboration, listening and empathy. These so-called ‘soft’ metrics might be more complicated to measure, but they are critical to driving a customer-centric experience. For example, recording and reviewing calls between sales reps and customers provides an opportunity to see whether the rep is listening as well as talking, and asking as well as sharing .
The recent State of Marketing report shows that marketers are gradually expanding the range of their KPIs with 62% measuring customer satisfaction, up from 60% in 2018, and 48% tracking lifetime customer value, up from 43% in 2018.
It’s time for sales teams to align with marketing and embrace these new ways of measuring the success of customer experience.
Enablement isn’t just for sales
Traditionally, the focus has been on sales enablement. But now, more than ever, that’s too narrow a focus. Sellers are not the only ones who need to be enabled. Anyone that is interacting with customers, from marketing to services, needs to be empowered to deliver a great customer experience.
With 76% of customers expecting consistent interactions across departments, but 54% saying it doesn’t feel like sales, service and marketing share information, enablement across the board is imperative.
To this end, 48% of sales ops teams have increased their involvement in cross-functional workstream management. Eighty-one percent of marketers share goals and metrics with sales colleagues and 63% of marketers use the same CRM system as sales and service departments. Customer experience is everyone’s job, so the more aligned departments are and the more committed to sharing a 360-degree view of the customer, the more successful they’ll be at delivering fantastic, seamless experiences.