Whilst many salespeople complain of their frustrations with getting an initial appointment with new prospects, it’s the next step – converting these initial buyer-seller conversations into a presentation opportunity – that should be more of a concern. Research from CSO Insights shows an alarming erosion in the ability to move a sale from an initial conversation, with around only 48% of these being converted. This is down from a high of around 58%.
The study on sales intelligence by CSO says the reason companies are struggling to move prospects past initial conversations is that today’s ultra-informed buyers want salespeople to demonstrate a value-add beyond product knowledge during the initial meeting. When a salesperson can’t do that prospects shun further meetings.
Sales managers understand this market reality and most coach their salespeople to talk about problems and solutions rather than product. But few companies provide their sales teams with the sales intelligence tools they need to do it. To have a meaningful first conversation with a prospect, salespeople need access to business intelligence that goes beyond basic data to provide insights on the prospect’s market, firm, competitors, and even the prospect itself. When they can’t find this kind of information, salespeople revert to what they know – their product.
The authors of the CSO study say there’s a direct correlation between a company’s initial conversation-to-presentation conversion rate and the level of sales intelligence access that company provides to its salespeople. In comparing organisations that reported conversion rates of greater than 50%, those with “Easy” access to sales intelligence reported a 55.1% win rate of forecast deals, those with “Limited” access to sales intelligence reported a 49.2% win rate, and those with “Difficult/No” access reported a 47.1% win rate.
At a glance, that may not seem like a huge difference, but imagine improving your team’s win rate from 47.1% to 55.1%. Say your salespeople sell 20 deals a year, each one averaging $100K. If you work the numbers, increasing their win rate from 47% to 55% results in three more deals a year, or $300K more in revenues annually per salesperson.
It is “shocking” how few companies truly help their salespeople prepare to have meaningful conversations, say CSO Insights authors Jim Dickie and Barry Trailer. “We may want them to do it. We may even demand they do it. But precious few of us give salespeople access to the sales intelligence to actually do it.” When CSO Insights asked companies whether they had programs in place to facilitate easy access to sales intelligence, only 9.7% of firms said, “yes.” The other 90.3% admitted that accessing sales intelligence “required some hunting, a lot of hunting, or was not available at all.”
The bottom line: your investment in a commercial sales intelligence support system will have an immediate and measurable impact on your team’s performance. “Sales Intelligence is an issue that all companies will ultimately have to address,” conclude the authors. “To us, the choice is clear: deal with this sooner – not later.”
Remember, everybody lives by selling something.
Sue Barrett will be speaking at the SmartCompany ‘Growing Your Business Seminar’ August 12th.