We asked and sellers responded. We wanted to know the biggest challenges they face in each stage of the selling process. More than 350 field reps, senior sales professionals, and sales leaders across industries weighed in.
The Number-One Concern for Sales Leaders: Sales Productivity
Far and away, the question on productivity received the largest response. Nearly half – 49 percent – identified “spending too much time on administrative or non-selling activities” as their biggest challenge.
It’s a common trap for sellers. They find themselves consumed with administrative or operational work, which makes it hard to focus on sales and closing new deals. Or they tend to babysit 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.
More Top Concerns: Team Selling and Combating the Status Quo
The second-largest responses, at 26 percent, were “knowledge about how to team-sell effectively” and, for challenges facing buyers in making purchasing decisions, “combating the status quo.”
The trend in buyers wanting to interact with subject-matter experts and project teams is increasing the need to team-sell. Yet not all team members are trained in either selling or effective customer interactions. This can lead to 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.
Selling as a team requires a different process – one that spans five natural stages:
- Creating your team
- Organizing its work
- Practicing your pitch
- Executing when it counts
- Regrouping afterwards to execute and grow
When it comes to the challenges facing buyers in making purchasing decisions, “combating the status quo” reflects the comfort and safety of staying the course. Buyers may be risk-averse or hesitant to try something new.
To overcome the buyer’s inertia, sellers need to create a compelling case for change by highlighting the loss or risk associated with not changing, addressing missed opportunity costs – the benefits unrealized – by staying put, and outlining a clear path forward to make the change decision easier to make.
Negotiating and Closing: Third-Toughest Challenges
Questions about negotiating and closing received the third-largest response, at 24 percent, where the top challenges were “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. The underlying issue is closely aligned with “competing against a low-cost provider,” which, in Richardson’s 2016 survey, received 47 percent of the responses.
Clearly, pricing – and the ability to win deals without lowering prices – remains crucial for sales success. Sellers can add value by helping buyers diagnose their unique situations. Then they can help identify the best solutions so buyers make informed decisions that drive the results they desire. 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 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.