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Digital Transformation

New Research Reveals Sales Reps Need a Productivity Overhaul – Spend Less than 30% Of Their Time Actually Selling

With nearly 70% of sales reps saying they’re overwhelmed by the number of tools, 9 out of 10 sales organizations plan to consolidate their tech stacks over the coming year so reps can spend more time selling and connecting with customers

Quick take: Salesforce surveyed more than 7,700 sales professionals from 38 countries to uncover how sales organizations are optimizing tech for peak efficiency, addressing customers’ increasing demands, and maximizing rep productivity to drive success now. 


Sales teams are in a challenging moment, and fewer than three out of 10 sellers expect their team to hit their full quota this year. Reps are being asked to adapt to close deals fast and fortify their company’s bottom line, but find themselves bogged down in administrative work that holds them back from the actual job of selling.

Today, Salesforce released the fifth edition of the State of Sales report, a global snapshot of how sales teams are reimagining their work to drive success now, including:

  • Consolidating tech stacks to boost productivity. Sales teams use an average of 10 tools to close deals. However, 94% of sales organizations plan to consolidate their tech stacks over the coming year to boost productivity.
  • Collaborating across teams to close dealers faster. Cross-functional alignment is sales leaders’ number one tactic for driving growth, with 81% of sales reps saying team selling helps them close.
  • Prioritizing initiatives that maximize impact and lower risk. Fifty-five percent of sales leaders say they’re prioritizing low-risk initiatives with modest guaranteed growth versus 45% who are prioritizing high-growth initiatives with high risk and unpredictability.
  • Improving the seller experience to make every rep a star player. Sales teams experienced a 25% average turnover rate over the past year, while nearly nine out of 10 sales leaders say they struggle to get budget for needed headcount.

“The most recent period of growth is on pause — traded away for tight budgets and a preference for high operating margins,” said Adam Gilberd, Executive Vice President, Sales at Salesforce. 

As sellers, we’re used to these conditions and are quickly adapting. Our customers are facing those same challenges. And our job is to help them overcome — to showcase opportunities for efficiency, cost savings, and added productivity. To be a trusted advisor in their pursuit of business goals and success now.

Adam Gilberd, Executive Vice President, Sales at Salesforce

Below are additional findings from the new sales research.

Sales teams adapt to a tougher selling environment

Sixty-nine percent of sales professionals say selling is harder now. Sellers are adjusting to a world that is both more competitive and resource constrained. Supply chain issues and inflation are particularly big concerns globally, with some variation across regions and industries.

The economic landscape is no longer one of rapid growth but increasingly one where teams prioritize dependable revenue: 70% of sales leaders say their organization is taking fewer risks now. Instead, their primary focus is transitioning away from pure in-person selling and improving alignment between departments.

Sales reps collaborate across teams to meet rising buyer expectations 

Sales reps are under pressure to act as trusted advisors to buyers – sharing sophisticated insights on all the right channels, including a myriad of digital spaces like email, social media, live chat, and messaging platforms. All in all, companies report using an average of 10 such channels to sell to customers, and nearly one-third of deals close completely virtually. 

Reading down a spec list or script won’t cut it with buyers, who — contending with the same tough market as sellers — seek personalized advice tailored to their specific circumstances. Seventy-three percent of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, and over eight in 10 reps say buyers increasingly conduct research before they even reach out. 

The research suggests that empowering cross-team collaboration may be a helpful way to address the challenges of selling. Eight out of 10 sales reps report that team selling helps them close deals. However, 82% of reps say alignment with other sellers is at least somewhat challenging, and across the board, partnerships with other teams often don’t even happen.

Reps partner most often with Sales operations (48%), followed by other sellers (43%) and marketing (42%)

Sales operations is tasked with increasing productivity 

As selling gets increasingly difficult, many reps have limited time to connect with customers. Reps spend just 28% of their week actually selling, with the majority of their time consumed by other tasks like deal management and data entry.

Sales reps spend just 28% of their time selling

The rise of sales operations as a strategic partner has emerged as a solution. Once viewed as a behind-the-scenes function, sales operations has taken center stage as organizations emphasize efficiency and cost savings. With expertise in optimizing tools and processes, sales ops professionals can give reps more time to focus on what they were hired to do: sell. At companies with a sales ops function, 65% of sales leaders now describe sales ops as key players defining strategy — up from 54% in 2020. 

One area of focus is the tech stack. In fact, sales teams use an average of 10 tools to close deals — everything from account management solutions to forecasting applications. However, more does not necessarily mean better. Clicking between applications can be time consuming, and 66% of sales reps say they’re overwhelmed by the number of tools. 

Leadership has taken note and is looking to address the issue. Nine out of 10 sales organizations plan to consolidate their tech stack in the next 12 months to create greater efficiencies and give sellers their time back.

Leaders strive to make every rep a star player

With tightening resources and headcount, retaining and maximizing the productivity of each seller is especially important to the bottom line. Today, voluntary quit rates — while trending down — are near a historic high, and almost one in four reps is looking for or planning to look for a new job within 12 months.

The dilemma: workers continue to leave their jobs at high rates, yet funds for hiring back-fills are being squeezed. Already, 85% of sales leaders say they struggle to get budget for needed headcount. 

The collision of attrition and hiring freezes has put companies on the alert. Sales leaders say they are tackling turnover by increasing benefits and providing greater location and schedule flexibility. This means that companies will need to quickly ramp up new sellers and work to speed their enablement.

Notably, 1:1 coaching is infrequent at many organizations, with only 26% of sales professionals receiving it at least weekly. While coaching software can supplement this 1:1 attention, only 53% of sales leaders use such solutions.

How sales can adapt to a new landscape

It comes as no surprise that sales teams are under the microscope. In fact, this new sales research shows that only 17% of sellers expect their team to hit its full quota this year. 

Nevertheless, there is a bright side – 75% of sales professionals are confident in their sales organization’s ability to retrain reps for a new selling landscape. Consolidating tech stacks and creating more time for dedicated coaching may help teams meet tough targets in a tightening market.

More information:

  • Read the full State of Sales report here.
  • Read how Salesforce and Slack are making selling together faster here.
  • Learn more about Sales Cloud here.

Methodology: 

Data in this report are from a double-anonymous survey conducted from Aug. 24, 2022, through Sept. 30, 2022. The survey generated 7,775 responses from a range of sales professionals from across North America, Latin America, Asia-Pacific, and Europe. All respondents are third-party panelists. See page 23 of the report for further survey demographics. Due to rounding, not all percentage totals in this report equal 100%. Comparison calculations are made from total numbers (not rounded numbers).

Astro

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