Fast forward to 2018: How do you jump two years ahead of the competition? Productivity is all about doing more in less time. If a sales team found a way to effectively freeze time for the competition, they could probably rack up some pretty amazing productivity numbers. They would be able to identify prospects at earlier stages of the customer's journey and send out content to help shape prospect opinions long before anyone else. As it turns out, sales leaders have already found a way to do that.
A Functional Time Machine
In a new report from CSO Insights, social selling works as an effective time machine. In 2015, sales leaders used social selling techniques to outperform average sales professionals, who performed as though they were stuck two years in the past. It sounds crazy but the numbers are solid.
The “Sales Best Practices Study” from CSO Insights is full of valuable statistics and suggestions on how to make entire sales teams more productive. One of the key ideas presented here is that world-class sales leaders effectively used social media channels to identify and contact the most important decision-makers at their prospective clients. In 2015, only 27 percent of average performers were making use of these channels, while world-class performers came to that conclusion two years ago.
Early Access to Buying Cycles
In fact, Sales for Life could have predicted results like these way back in 2013. One of our blogs, published in April of that year, included the following prediction: “You will be able to learn about your prospects’ buying cycles early, and often. You will know when your prospects are ready to buy, and can take advantage of that knowledge, leaving other sellers behind.”
It's not magic, it's science. Using social selling to find the right decision-makers early in the process can significantly increase the probability of a close. It also helps shorten the sales cycle using techniques like "priority shifting" content that moves the prospect along the customer's journey without the need for direct influence. Tighter cycles equal more sales at higher productivity levels.
Another vital area that made the difference between average and extraordinary sales results had to do with the fact that sales leaders prioritize the pipeline. Nearly three out of four (72 percent) of world-class sellers said that social media was a highly effective tool for lead generation. Back in 2013, only 26 percent of sales leaders had caught on, but they were learning fast. Average salespeople are just now catching up to this fact, while sales leaders have enjoyed their pipeline advantage for the past 24 months.
Again, Sales for Life was there broadcasting this message in 2013 for those ahead of their time. In “Marketing Won't Hold Your Hand in 2013!” I wrote, "Prospects are making it harder to do business, but Social Selling is making it much easier for sales reps. Sales reps need to learn LinkedIn Signal & Hootsuite. Forget marketing -- list for your clients, prospects, keywords, competitors... it’s all there.”
What are the chances that average performers can ever catch up at this rate? That depends on how quickly they can shift gears and apply social selling techniques. It will take social selling training and sales automation support, but there's always room in the market for salespeople who bring something original.
Impacts on Sales Performance
You can rely on change. That will never change. How well organizations adapt to those whiplash alterations in the market makes all the difference in who will survive into the next round. That's one of the conclusions from a related report by CSO Insights. Survey results from sales leaders found that the following factors had the greatest impact on sale performance:
Evolving customer expectations – 52.4 percent
Original competitive actions – 45.2 percent
The complexity of offerings – 39 percent
Shake-ups in the market – 36.6 percent
The introduction of new items – 26.1 percent
What this means is that specialists in specific skill areas like traditional sales can't compete with those who know how to listen and adapt to the market.
What Can Be Controlled
There will always be a host of environmental forces outside the control of any company. What the sales team can control is how much they learn about the market, how much they share within their sales teams and what structures the company puts in place so that knowledge isn't lost from one month to the next.
The good news is that these 21st-century sales survival skills can be taught if the company puts a repeatable process in place. Companies with dynamic monitoring and improvement processes for sales realized a 70 percent quota attainment record overall. In comparison, companies with random or informal sales processes posted a 47 percent quota attainment. Companies that can't even hit half of their quota are in for a bumpy ride on the road ahead.
2 Years From Now
Look at revenue projections for 2018 and consider what it will take for the sales team to get there. Social selling training for the entire team can be a critical component in collapsing those two years and helping them get ahead of the curve. Nobody knows what's coming next, but social sellers are the first ones to know for several reasons. They are better connected, they listen to subtle market shifts bubbling up on social media, and they help define what comes next with their thought leadership. The future is in their hands.