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3 External Factors that Influence Sales Transformation

Learn 3 important external factors that lead to B2B Sales Transformation and how you can bring your sales functions to the next level.

The rapid movement of digital transformation has affected so many businesses and organizations, with sales functions often being impacted the most. As much as 65% of sales organizations find sales productivity as their top challenge and most think that they do not have the right sales talent. While in some cases it may be true, this notion neglects external influence. We have studied the sales function and researched the critical factors that allow sellers to be successful in this rapidly changing sales landscape. It turns out, we have isolated 3 macro-dynamics that are dramatically affecting the performance of sales teams and determined that accounting for these dynamics can dramatically improve the performance of sellers. In fact, it is these three dynamics that are at the heart of the sales transformation so many organizations desire.   

 Those three factors are: 

  1. A rapidly changing external environment that relies on data, analytics, and technology in new ways.
  2. Customer behavior has evolved quickly, requiring a shift in the way that sellers partner and collaborate with buyers.   
  3. New foundational requirements that are essential for sales success. 

As much as 65% of sales organizations find sales productivity as their top challenge and most think that they do not have the right sales talent.

In the next section, I will explain each of the factors thoroughly. 

Changing external environment

The external environment is radically different than ever before. To meet the needs of this changing environment, many sales leaders around the globe are adopting data and digital strategies to enhance their sales processes. Hence, the use of data and analytics is core to a B2B Sales Transformation 

Furthermore, the pandemic also created a new shift in the typical sales model and way of interactions: from traditional, in-person sales to digital sales where a fully remote sales process is possible. Mind you, the remote sales trend was already in place before the pandemic, but nine out of ten sales leaders believe that this digital sales model will last in the next year and beyond, largely due to emerging customer preferences. 

Speaking of customers…

Evolving customer behavior

We know that modern buyers often take the opportunity to educate themselves before buying a product. Typical buyers are spending much more time on their own researching and understanding their problem, and their options, than ever before. In fact, today we find that nearly 60% of the purchase process is completed before a salesperson is ever involved. This shift has required a re-imagining of the digital assets we make available to buyers to support their education journey, with many sales functions comprehensively overhauling their Marketing approach in order to better support this evolving customer preference.  We are now seeing 90% of B2B buyers searching for keywords on the internet before a purchase and 75% of B2B buyers watch online videos to gather information.  

 As we evolve our sales functions to be more pull than push the issue is not whether buyers have enough information to make an informed decision about a vendor or a set of purchase requirements.  The buyer has too much information, and they begin to feel overwhelmed by options and requirements. They begin to doubt their ability to make a confident decision about their best course of action. The amount of seemingly trustworthy information can often feel contradictory and the ability to make informed trade-offs between different vendor capabilities is not easy. 

Therefore, sellers need to collaborate with buyers in new ways and rebuild their trust and confidence in the process by: 

  1. Personalizing and connecting customers to relevant sources that they are unlikely encounter on their own, 
  2. Clarifying and simplifying information, including issues that customers are likely to face in the purchase process. Be honest, helpful, and clear. 
  3. Collaborating in customer learning by helping customers identify questions they did not even think to ask and helping them to arrive at their own understanding when they face a difficult consideration. 

New foundational requirements for sales success

SHL conducted a study of more than 14,000 B2B sales professionals. Some traditional competencies such as sales drive, sales focus, and achievement orientation remain important. However, a new set of emerging competencies that differentiate high performance comes on the scene: adaptability and resilience. These new competencies help companies to navigate all the changes as illustrated in the graphic below, that if you are not adaptable and resilient enough, you will risk the danger of being side-tracked from your goals.

SHL Sales Transformation model

At SHL, we are thrilled to share that the research we have conducted on the changing nature of the Sales function has led to the creation of a new behavioral model for understanding sales talent.  We can use this new model to improve hiring effectiveness when bringing in new sellers, bring awareness and targeted development to existing teams about their own strengths and gaps, and most importantly to support the sales transformation agenda that so many organizations are facing. 

This model consolidates all the traditional and new sales competencies that companies must achieve to respond to the external environment change and the shift in customer behavior and to lay the foundations of successful sales functions based on the new reality—starting from the need to embrace the adoption of commercial analytics and technology to the need to have adaptability, resilience, and agility.

Learn how we can help you to hire, review, and develop sales talent that transform your business. Also, join us in our webinar “Transforming Your Sales Organization”!

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Andrew Nelesen

Andy Nelesen is the global leader of SHL’s Volume Hiring practice, partnering with SHL customers on the design and optimization of data-driving hiring solutions for the past 10+ years.

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