December 2016

State of Sales: What it takes to become a sales success

There was a time when success in sales was a mysterious secret. Some teams “had it” and others simply did not - and never would. Closing deals, hitting forecast and making your number was down to the talent or natural gifts of those at the top of your “leader board”. Today it is very different. We have discovered a very clear formula that if pursued will yield far greater results - read it here in the Second Annual State of Sales Report.

Meeting the demands of the connect customer with AI

In the report, Salesforce Research has discovered that sales success comes down to a sophisticated formula that - with the right laser-focus and investment - any team can achieve. Based on interviews with more than 3,000 global sales professionals, Salesforce Research has identified what it takes to succeed and have differentiated that from those who do not succeed as well.

More broadly, success is driven by a response to today’s connected customer - a far more savvy buyer than in the past. By recognising the characteristics of this customer, sales teams that have adapted - sell.

Among critical success factors, the report identifies that integration with other departments across the organisation - most significantly marketing - is crucial for sales to smash goals. In an age when customer experience transcends every touch point, it is important that every department is aligned in delivering a consistent experience. Marketing increasingly owns the definition of that experience and therefore sales must closely collaborate with marketing to understand the personalised journeys their customers will experience.

Also key to this formula is the use of sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) to support sales activity and to predict customer behaviours far better. High performers, for instance, are as much as three-and-a-half times more likely to use AI than those that underperform.

The characteristics of successful salespeople

However beyond AI, there are other common characteristics that the report reveals that are essential in the success of the highest sales performers:

  • Successful sales teams recognise that the connected customer places huge importance on the quality of the experience and their response to a brand - particularly whether they buy or not - is predicated on that experience. As a result, the highest performing sales teams place a metric on that experience and attribute a KPI value to it.
  • In the most successful teams, sales is no longer a silo operating on its own - as it so often has been in the past. A staggering 73 per cent of sales professionals say collaborating across the organisation to deliver a personalised customer journey is essential to success.
  • That personal touch point is always essential, and remains the most effective sales channel. However, increasingly, using technology that can scale that experience is crucial to success. Crucial to this is the use of self-service channels - which is why high performing teams are 2.7 times more likely to use online communities to connect with customers.
  • Sales processes are still key and teams that have been able to strip out as much of the onerous admin tasks that prevent them from actually selling are the most successful.

But AI remains that essential ingredient in this recipe for sales success. The report predicts that there will be triple-digit growth expected in AI technologies in the next three years. Artificial Intelligence, predictive intelligence and automated “lead-to-cash” processes will all play a part as teams blaze a trail to greater sales effectiveness.

So download the second annual State of Sales Report from Salesforce Research to discover how you can adapt your sales team to become a top performing team in 2017.


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