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Why sales teams should pivot from productivity to ‘outcome selling’

30th Sep 2016
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Companies have invested billions in customer relationship management (CRM) systems and performance management solutions that promise to enhance sales productivity and bolster performance by giving reps more time to sell. But is the investment really paying off?

Have strategies aimed at improving sales productivity have, in many cases, achieved the opposite effect? And can pivoting from productivity to ‘outcome selling’ help organisations unlock the performance they expect?  

In the digital age, data has become the ultimate currency, helping organisations better understand and connect with their customers in more meaningful ways. As consumer purchasing behaviour has evolved to become less predictable, more impulsive and ‘always-on’, sales teams have had the most to gain from unprecedented insight into their customer-base.

To capitalise on the opportunity, organisations have invested significantly in solutions designed to make sales teams more agile and responsive. But the investment isn’t paying off.

According to Accenture Strategy’s analysis of the 2016 CSO Insights Sales Performance Optimisation Study, 59% of global sales executives say they have been bombarded with too many sales tools and too much disaggregated customer data to be effective. Another 55% say their sales tools are an obstacle to selling.

Instead of giving reps more time to sell, many are inundated with more information than they can effectively use or absorb, and are tied up with unproductive administration rather than running with sales leads. Consequently, ‘sales distraction’ is hindering performance, causing more than half (56%) of global organisations to miss annual sales forecasts.

The high cost of distraction

Sales enablement programs that are intended to boost productivity can have a debilitating impact on sales performance, causing diversions that distract sellers and pull them off course.

According to the research, just 22% of sellers’ time is taken up with lead generation, and only 36% of their average work week is spent selling.

Sales productivity has also decreased from 41% five years’ ago, to 36% today. Another 58% of sales executives are concerned about achieving this year’s sales targets.

Boosting sales performance

Pivoting from productivity to ‘outcome selling’ – which helps sellers to hone in on the insights and actions that matter most, at the right time in the sales cycle, enabling a higher chance of conversion – can help them regain focus and deliver the tailored solutions and experiences customers expect.

To help sellers deliver the experiences customers desire and the offers they find meaningful, organisations can leverage technology to deliver predictive and prescriptive insights to sales.

The use of analytics and Big Data can bring the right insights to sales representatives, at the right time, empowering them with the information they need to deliver stronger customer experiences and profitable sales growth.

The steps to outcome selling strategy

With a connected understanding of customers’ propensity to purchase and sellers’ behaviours, along with the power of predictive insights, sales leaders can cut through the noise of today’s selling environment and focus on active sales management techniques that bring the principles of outcome selling to life.

Organisations can move to an outcome selling approach by:

  1. Connecting customer insights: Connect and bypass the siloed functions that slow efforts to capture and share customer insights across touch points – from call centres, kiosks, social media networks to sales and post-sales service channels. Also push past static profiles to understand customer behaviours and preferences, and identify the best opportunities for sellers to advise and influence customers.
  2. Using predictive insights: To help sellers deliver the experiences customers value the most, organisations should look to build predictive sales insights and an execution model to deliver them. Central to this vision is a sales intelligence hub, which delivers forward-looking recommendations to sales executives. The blueprint calls for next-generation analytics tools and data collection methods, predictive analysis, and detailed sales guidance for executives.
  3. Leveraging top performer seller insights: Organisations need to understand what differentiates the top sellers in their own business, and in the organisations of their channel partners. To help position the right talent with the right opportunities, sales leaders need to understand as much about their top sellers as their customers. The research shows that when sales leaders leverage these insights through coaching sessions on how to implement an outcome-driven sales process, sellers perform 10% better than the peer average.

Tomorrow’s winners will connect customer and sales intelligence with active sales management and orchestration techniques, putting predictive insights into the hands of sellers exactly when they need them.

Julian Short is managing director, advanced customer strategy, at Accenture Strategy.

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