Sixty-nine percent of sales professionals say selling is more difficult now than it was before the pandemic, according to Salesforce Research’s State of Sales 2022 report.
In the fifth edition of the “State of Sales” report, Salesforce Research surveyed more than 7,700 sales professionals worldwide to find out how sales organizations are driving value amid economic challenges, more effectively meeting changing customer expectations, and becoming more aligned with sales operations as a strategic partner . in business success and using enablement tactics to turn all reps into MVPs. Here are four key findings from the report:
- The new sales mantra: maximizing impact. Companies are moving away from high-risk strategies as they grapple with inflation, supply chain bottlenecks, regulatory uncertainty and political disruption. Yet sales reps are under pressure to meet targets. This is a big challenge.
- Sales operations increase efficiency. Operational efficiency is gaining more and more importance. Sales operations is expanding into a more strategic role, one that allows reps to spend more time talking to customers. Sales reps only spend 28% of their week actually making sales.
- Dealers strive to meet the growing expectations of customers. Buyers are looking for sales representatives to meet wherever they are, regardless of channel: e-commerce platforms, social media networks and personal assistants. Buyers then expect sales representatives to act as sophisticated, trusted advisors. On average, organizations connect with customers through 10 channels.
- The seller experience gets a second look. Companies are reviewing training and benefits programs while optimizing sales enablement areas and tools to set employees up for success. The number of new employees is limited, and in the next 12 months we expect a turnover of 25% in the sales organizations.
An in-depth look at sales status reports highlights these 10 key business trends in sales:
- Selling has become more difficult – 69% of sales professionals agree that their work is now more difficult. And 82% of sales reps say they had to quickly adapt to new ways of selling. The top five challenges for sales are: 1. supply chain issues, 2. inflation, 3. changing regulations, 4. political instability, and 4. health safety measures. Additionally, 70% of sales leaders say their sales organization now takes less risk. To improve sales growth, companies adopt these top five tactics: 1. Improve cross-functional alignment, 2. Adapt to hybrid or virtual sales, 3. Improve data accuracy and volume, 4. Target new markets, and 5. Update tools and technologies.
- On average, organizations use 10 channels to sell to a customer. The report found that buyers expect sales organizations to appear wherever they are – in email, social media and all emerging channels. In fact, 57% of shoppers prefer to engage with businesses through digital channels. Companies report that nearly one-third of the deals they close are completely virtual.
- Customers expect knowledgeable sales teams with sophisticated insights. The report found that 81% of sales reps say buyers are increasingly researching before they reach out. This was an interesting finding: 87% of business buyers expect sales representatives to act as trusted advisors.
- Sales growth is a team sport and requires business coordination. Cross-functional alignment is the #1 tactic for sales leaders to drive growth. Two key stats from the report: 81% of sales reps say 81% of their sales team helps them close. But 82% of sales reps say coordinating with other salespeople is at least somewhat challenging.
- The wedding experience must be better than the courtship. The report found that 80% of sales reps believe that maintaining customer relationships after closing is increasingly important. Value-based communication, active listening, and follow-up/accountability were the top three ways sales reps maintain a healthy relationship with customers after the sale is closed.
- Effectiveness of sales operations is a key capability. The role of sales operations is becoming increasingly important to sales organizations. In 2020, 54% of sales leaders said sales operations were critical to defining strategy—a number that has since jumped to 65%. More than eight out of ten sales professionals say sales operations play a key role in business growth.
- Most of the time, sales teams don’t sell. Now, reps actually only spend 28% of their week selling. The rest consists of critical but tedious tasks such as business management and data entry. Only 37% of sales professionals strongly agree that their organization is fully utilizing their CRM. The most useful CRM functions for sales are: 1. process and workflow automation, 2. data entry automation, 3. intelligent customer insight, 4. integration with internal systems, and 5. the ability to replace other sales tools.
- Sales teams are drowning in tools and overwhelmed by data. The report found that 94% of sales organizations plan to consolidate their technology stack in the next 12 months. To drive effective sales, sales departments can prioritize their consolidation around the functions most popular with sales organizations: reporting, CRM functionality, and account/contact management, among others. The top 5 tools used by sales organizations are: 1. Sales reporting and analytics, 2. CRM, 3. Account and contact management, 4. Mobile sales apps for employees, and 5. Sales forecasting tools.
- Artificial intelligence (AI) is at a tipping point. A focus on efficiency and cost savings may drive artificial intelligence (AI) adoption to greater urgency. Only one-third of sales organizations are currently using AI. An additional 20% of organizations plan to do so in the next two years. Eight out of 10 managers and sales professionals say AI has at least moderately improved how reps spend their time. High performers are 1.9 times more likely to use AI than low performers.
- Employee retention is still a concern for sales organizations. Sales organizations reported a 25% average realization over the past 12 months. As of September 2022, almost one in four representatives were looking for or planned to look for a new job within 12 months. Altogether, almost half of the representatives were at least open to leaving if something better came along. At the same time, 85% of sales managers say they struggle to get the budget for the required number of employees. That number could rise if economic shifts force leaders to cut operating costs. Coaching is one way organizations keep sales professionals engaged and productive. Sales professionals overwhelmingly agree that they receive valuable mentoring from their manager, but only 26% say it happens weekly. Only 53% of sales managers use coaching solutions.
The sales outlook is mostly optimistic. The report found that 75% of sales professionals are confident in their sales organizations’ ability to retrain reps – up from 63% in 2020.
The State of Sales report was also segmented by industry, country, company size, and sales roles. The drivers of sales growth varied by industry. With increasing challenges and changing economic conditions, it’s no wonder why most sales professionals don’t expect to hit quota this year. To learn more about how the sales teams plan to grow in the near future, you can access the State of Sales report here.