There are no sales pitches in the new Age of the Customer.

Today, the name of the game is “customer experience,” and the consumer is king. In fact, Salesforce’s second annual “State of Sales” report found that customer experience is the top type of key performance indicator (KPI) used by sales organizations to measure success. To win at selling now means helping your customers win too, fostering a discussion that uncovers their needs and proposing solutions that best fit them. To deliver, teams are adopting a new blueprint of sales that incorporates more analytics and intelligent technology to replace the product pitches of yesteryear — providing tailored customer solutions that give tech-empowered, info-savvy customers the knowledge-rich, fast, and personal experiences they demand.

Check out these 15 sales statistics that underscore just how much sales is changing. [Click to tweet]

Which trends define this new era of selling? We’ve taken research findings from the second annual “State of Sales” report to map out four big trends, and 15 sales statistics, that underscore just how much sales is changing.

 

Trend #1: Customer Experience Is Now the Top Sales Benchmark

 

In today’s connected marketplace, informed customers have more power to dictate which businesses lead and which fall behind. Sales teams, unsurprisingly, are eager to crack the code on customer centricity. This renewed focus on the customer is spurring considerations around how sales teams quantify success.

Here are a few interesting sales facts that illustrate the rising importance of customer experience.

  • 51% of sales leaders are focused on increasing customer retention through deeper relationships. They are nearly as focused on customer retention as sales prospecting (56% focused on growing leads/new customers). Top sales teams care just as much about creating long-lasting customers through memorable experiences as they do about making the sale.

  • High-performing sales teams are 2.8x more likely than underperforming teams to say their sales organizations have become much more focused on personalizing customer interactions over the past 12–18 months. (Bear in mind that “high-performing” sales teams are only the top 20% of 3,000+ sales professionals surveyed.) By offering more personalized selling experiences at scale, top sales teams are winning the attention of prospects and customers who are tired of one-size-fits-all tactics.

  • 79% of business buyers say it’s absolutely critical or very important to interact with a salesperson who is a trusted advisor — not just a sales rep — who adds value to their business. Customers demand smarter sales experiences, and they want sales reps who are personal consultants that help them address their challenges instead of treating them like another lead in the pipe.

  • The top two process challenges that sales organizations face are meeting customer expectations and dealing with competitive concerns. Despite sales teams’ newfound focus on customer experience as a top benchmark, achieving it isn’t easy — primarily because customer needs have grown more sophisticated over time.


Customers now seek personalized interactions with the brands they do business with, and expect their sales reps to learn, understand, and anticipate their needs — like personal consultants.

 

Trend #2: High-Performing Sales Teams Are Adopting a New Approach

 

As companies prepare for the intelligent marketplace of the future, successful sales teams are arming their reps with smarter selling capabilities.

These sales statistics show how teams are making it a priority to stay connected and proactive in their approach.

  • 73% of sales teams say collaborating across departments is absolutely critical or very important to their overall sales process. Sales teams of all performance levels realize the importance of cross-collaboration in order to have complete visibility into the customer journey. Sales organizations can no longer exist in silos — they must now connect across different departments, channels, and partners.

  • 60% of sales professionals say that collaborative selling has increased productivity by more than 25%, and more than half (52%) say it has done the same for increasing pipeline. Organizations are able to sell quicker and more efficiently by integrating other departments (like marketing or services) into the process.

  • 68% of sales professionals say it is absolutely critical or very important to have a single view of the customer across departments/roles. Yet, only 17% of sales teams rate their single view of the customer capabilities as outstanding. While the majority of sales reps acknowledge the importance of an aggregated view of customer data, they’re having a hard time delivering with their current technology stack.




Sales teams are trying new tactics. Realizing that customers still value human interactions, modern sellers are finding the most success by blending personal interactions with other communication channels.

 

Trend #3: Teams Are Reducing Inefficiencies with Tech

 

Sales teams are not only faced with keeping up with the pace of mobile customers, but also keeping their customer relationship management (CRM) system up to date, managing the flow of paperwork between clients and legal, and waiting for customer responses. It’s a lot to manage. Today, sales teams are taking control back into their own hands by reducing administrative inefficiencies with the help of tech — specifically automation, smarter analytics, and mobile capabilities.

These statistics show how sales teams are tapping into tech to work smarter.

  • Among sales teams that cite ineffective internal processes as their top challenge, excessive administrative tasks was the top cause. When sales teams must spend the majority of their time completing arduous administrative tasks, they’re forced to divert their attention from what should be their top priority — selling and meeting team goals.

  • 79% of sales teams currently use or are planning to use sales analytics technology to increase efficiency. Analytics provide sales teams with deeper insights into lead quality and process effectiveness, resulting in more data-driven decision-making and greater visibility for sales leaders.   

  • 76% of sales professionals say using sales analytics has significantly or somewhat improved their ability to provide customers with a consistent experience across every channel. Not only do analytics open the door to a more efficient, accurate, and personalized process, but it also give sales teams deeper insights to optimize their selling process.


On average,
sales reps spend a whopping 64% of their time on non-selling tasks, despite the fact that they’d rather be building relationships with new customers.

 

Trend #4: Adopting Artificial Intelligence for Smarter Selling

 

As these sales statistics have shown, reps are becoming too bogged down with non-selling activities. That’s why the research shows they’re turning to artificial intelligence (AI) and other intelligent technologies for smarter selling processes that help them win back time and selling power.

  • AI is the top growth area for sales teams — its adoption by sales teams is forecasted to grow 139% over the next three years. Top sales teams have already realized the power of using AI to craft compelling customer experiences, focusing specifically on automatically recommending products to customers based on their preferences.

  • Triple-digit growth is also expected in areas such as predictive intelligence (118%) and lead-to-cash process automation (115%) in the next three years. Soon, product recommendations, lead scoring, email response, and even day-to-day administrative tasks will be autonomously integrated so that sales reps can focus on delivering the best customer experiences.

  • High-performing sales teams are 2.3x more likely than underperforming teams to currently use guided selling. Over the next three years, sales teams at all performance levels anticipate that guided selling and coaching capabilities (i.e., adaptive intelligence on next-best activities) will grow by 98%.

  • High-performing sales teams are 10.5x more likely than underperformers to experience a major positive impact on forecast accuracy when using intelligent capabilities. Those who have implemented intelligent technologies are already seeing a pay-off, realizing substantial improvements in areas such as prospect nurturing, forecast accuracy, and pipeline generation.

While top teams are already realizing the tremendous benefits of adopting smarter selling techniques into their processes, others stand to make substantial gains from time spent selling and connecting on a deeper, more personalized level with customers.

For more interesting sales facts, get the second annual “State of Sales” report (free to download), featuring country-specific data and research-based advice for the modern sales team.