Team Management

The 4 Most Important Areas Sales Teams Can Improve in 2019

Despite an increase in sales organizations’ meeting revenue goals, 2018 marked a difficult year for seller success. “The 2018–2019 Sales Performance Report” from CSO Insights, the research division of Miller Heiman Group, found that only 54% of sellers hit their projected quotas last year. Other surprising statistics include:

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  • Of the 16 basic sales skills measured in the study, 15 showed worse performance than a year ago. Sellers can’t explain return on investment, engage with decision-makers, or present effective solutions to customer problems.
  • Win rates remained stagnant from the previous year, at 47%. Sellers are still closing less than half of what they forecast.

While it’s too late to turn back the clock on 2018, sales leaders with struggling teams can improve in 2019 by applying the strategies outlined in the report. Sales leaders need to pick one of four focus areas and use it as the lever to drive growth in the next year:

1. Lead Generation

How can organizations successfully pursue leads if they can’t agree on what a lead looks like? The survey found that 43% of sales organizations have no agreed-upon lead definition between sales and marketing, and 35% have no shared process for nurturing those leads once they are identified. Organizations may not even realize how much business they’re missing out on.

As backward as it seems, sales organizations should stop focusing on bridging the divide between sales and marketing and, instead, come together around a common goal: serving the customer.

2. Capturing New Accounts

Less than 30% of total revenue in 2018 came from new accounts, which means sellers aren’t landing new business. Nearly 70% of companies ranked this aspect of selling as one they need to improve—the lowest-rated operational metric in the study.

Improving these three areas can help reverse this alarming trend:

  • Prospect prioritization. The majority (65%) of sellers who exceed expectations in prioritizing prospects are also confident in their ability to close new business.
  • Aligning the sales process with the customer path. More than half of organizations (54%) that exceed customer expectations are also confident in their ability to close.
  • Opportunity planning. 83% of companies that exceed expectations are confident in their ability to secure new accounts.

3. Expanding Penetration into Existing Accounts

Sales organizations relied heavily on existing accounts for their 2018 revenue, but those existing accounts aren’t growing. Less than half of sales leaders felt confident in their teams’ ability to sell into existing customers’ other business units or effectively cross-sell, upsell, and expand relationships.

Sellers often say they lack the time to both service existing accounts and capture new customers. But the study instead found that quality account planning made the difference, directly resulting in not only higher win rates but also higher quota attainment.

4. Increasing Win Rates

On average, sellers won less than half (47%) of their forecasted opportunities in 2018. The best sellers, however, know they can’t roll into a sales conversation unprepared. The organizations where sellers mastered methodologies around selling with perspective and insight saw 55% win rates, versus 40% for those who said their capabilities needed a major redesign or improvement.

Sellers have a host of resources at their disposal, including existing customers, CMS systems, and referrals, that enable them to provide a unique perspective, but these resources go to waste if sellers don’t apply them strategically and help the buyer think differently.

A series of checks and balances must be implemented to ensure long-term success, rather than just setting a goal around one of these four areas. Updated performance plans and incentives, heightened communication, and updated processes and technology, in addition to training, will help you achieve your goals.