From prospecting through closing, sellers navigate a changing and challenging sales environment. The annual Richardson Selling Challenges research tracks the latest trends and identifies opportunities for building stronger connections with buyers in the new selling reality.

Getting in the right door

With time short and pressure to deliver, sellers are becoming more strategic in their prospecting efforts. More than just getting in the door, they want to get in the right door.

The top prospecting concerns in 2017 indicate a definite shift from the prior year. Now, there is greater interest in creating a targeted prospecting strategy and obtaining quality leads from marketing. In 2016, sellers were more concerned with identifying sales signals of buying needs and identifying target accounts.

In essence, today’s sellers have a greater interest in being more precise in their prospecting efforts. They have moved beyond the “how” of identifying and targeting opportunities (and which sales and marketing enablement tools to use to do so). Now, they’re looking for ways to make a greater impact more quickly and are more concerned with contacting the right prospects at the right time, based on obtaining the right leads from their marketing colleagues.

Being more productive

One of the biggest barriers to productivity is spending too much time on administrative or non-selling activities. Nearly half of all sellers — 49% — identified this as their biggest productivity challenge.

When sellers find themselves consumed with administrative or operational work, there’s little time left to focus on sales and closing new deals. Some sellers sabotage themselves by babysitting their accounts because they don’t trust their own service and support people to do a good job.

Managers need to be aware of what’s going on and who is doing what work. It is the manager’s job to remove obstacles so sellers can get back to selling.

Selling as a team

Today’s buyers want to interact with more than just the seller. They want to meet with subject-matter experts and project teams. This trend is increasing the need to team sell. Yet, not all team members are trained in selling or effective customer interactions. The result can be a disjointed and confusing buying and selling process. Additionally, sellers often work on their own, so collaborating as part of a selling team is a skill that needs reinforcement. Effective teams follow a different process — one with five natural stages: creating the team; organizing its work; practicing the pitch; executing when it counts; and regrouping afterwards to execute and grow.

Combating the status quo

Buyers often “stay the course” when making purchasing decisions. They may be risk-adverse or hesitant to try something new. To overcome the buyer’s inertia, sellers need to create a compelling case for change. This includes highlighting the loss or risk associated with not changing. When sellers address missed opportunity costs — the benefits unrealized — by staying put and outline a clear path forward, they make the decision to change easier for buyers.

Pricing remains challenging

When it comes to negotiating and closing deals, the top challenges are “gaining higher prices” and “competing against a low-cost provider.” In fact, “gaining higher prices” has been the top negotiating challenge for three years running.

Clearly, pricing — and the ability to win deals without lowering prices — remains crucial for sales success. Sellers add value by helping buyers diagnose their unique situations and identify the best solutions so buyers can make informed decisions that drive results. When sellers add value to the buying process, price may still be an issue, but it may not be the most important one.

The Richardson 2017 research report confirms the continuation of a demanding sales environment driven by ongoing shifts in buyer behaviors, competitive pressures, and operational trends. It also suggests that there has never been a better time to face these demands, as sellers can leverage mobile technology and social networks to better understand their buyers and build lasting engagements in today’s hyper-connected world.

For more survey results and insights, download the full report, “2017 Research: Understanding Selling Challenges,” from the Richardson website.


As Richardson’s Chief Marketing Officer Andrea is responsible for leading Richardson’s marketing team in increasing brand awareness and relevance. She prioritizes understanding the buyer journey to ensure the company adds value to customers at each step along the way. As an executive sponsor, Andrea also frequently consults with clients on global, long-term solutions for multi-tiered audience levels. Because of this extensive, client-facing work, Andrea is one of Richardson’s key thought leaders in the area of sales performance improvement. Andrea frequently publishes white papers, blogs, and videos on various sales-related topics and speaks at client and industry events.