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Why Are B2B Sales Reps Failing?

| January 9, 2018 | Quark Blog Team

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The Problem

Companies are struggling to win new business at the same rate as before because prospect conversations are more sophisticated and reps can’t keep up. If you believe this is the reality then you need to figure out how to arm sales reps to be successful in those situations.

B2B sales reps are successful when they can tell the right story. Unfortunately not all reps can tell that story, and no rep can tell the right story every time. Reps feel lost because it’s really hard to figure out how to deal with the massive complexity of the selling environment today, where prospects expect messaging, collateral, and presentations, really everything they hear or see, to be tailored to their specific industry, geography, company size, solution needs, etc.

According to Marc Lindwall at Forrester Research, 78% of executive buyers claim salespeople don’t have relevant examples or case studies to share with them, and 77% say salespeople don’t understand their company’s issues or where they can help. When you show the same stale presentation, perhaps the same one that can be downloaded from your website, to every prospect without understanding where and how you can help, you’re not giving your prospects a reason to care. If you are not tailoring your presentations to every different prospect you are not going to win the deal.

Huge Productivity Investments

The need to address this issues is clear. In fact, companies are investing in technology, consultants, re-orgs, processes, and cross company communication to help reps through this complexity.

Some organizations have even started to give rep’s “playbooks” or are doing “guided selling.” The idea is to proactively arm sales reps with all their content needs so they aren’t forced to go hunting for the right stuff as they move through a sales cycle.

Other organizations are focusing on shared goals, speaking the same language, common milestones and metrics, and well-oiled business processes a.k.a sales and marketing alignment.

$66B+ is being spent annually on sales training and sales enablement technology in an attempt to support sales reps!

What have we got to show for our investment?

Hmmm, not much. Throwing $66B+ at the sales productivity problem doesn’t appear to be delivering better sales reps. According to CSO insights only 58% of sales reps are making quota.

The Challenger Customer co-author Brent Adamson said “In a world of demanding customers, we need to give them what they want. And it’s a lot.” Generic messaging and content frustrate prospects and customers. They’ve already read about your company and your main offerings on the Internet, and they expect more than hearing the same basic message. They want presentations and collateral designed for companies who look just like them!

A Neglected Funnel

Another issue hampering rep productivity is marketing’s preoccupation with lead gen. There is not enough focus on closing. The material needed to convert visitors into SALs (sales accepted leads) has taken a back seat over the past decade as inbound marketing has risen in fashion. As a result, sales reps are missing content to help them establish a trusted relationship with prospects and close business.

The few investments we have made at the bottom of the funnel (where it really matters) just don’t work. Guided selling gives reps easy access to content that has been loaded into a CRM. But, this approach of limiting content only works in a small subset of selling situations. Persona-based content gets used early and often in sales cycles where there’s limited knowledge either of the prospects or of what they’re trying to achieve, but as sales cycles progress, getting more complex and unique, content needs to become more sophisticated, and sales reps struggle to stay targeted.

Ask any rep at your company what they think about sales and marketing content and I wouldn’t be surprised if you heard the following “Existing content is not helpful. It can’t be found. It’s overwhelming and it’s not mobile.”

The Right Story Wins the Deal

A mind-boggling statistic from a SiriusDecisions survey revealed that 71% of sales reps blamed their inability to close deals on their lack of knowledge! And, after the failure of guided selling, it seems that sales and marketing leaders have thrown up their hands, thinking they’ll never be able to fix this problem, because there’s a misunderstanding between the two organizations: sales doesn’t realize how much high value content marketing has created for them; and marketing doesn’t appreciate how many different situations sales finds themselves in.

To help salespeople tell the right story to win the deal, we need to harness the combined expertise of both marketing and sales. But because of the massive complexity in the enterprise today (thousands of product permutations, 20+ storage repositories hosting millions of pieces of content) and so many different ways of helping your customers, no human can do it on their own. To leverage the complexity and the corpus of knowledge as a strategic differentiator really requires a predictive engine that incorporates everything you know as an organization about what’s most likely to help win each sales cycle.

Sell Smarter by Being Relevant

Predictive/relevance engines that are commonplace in other industries – think of Netflix or Amazon – can be used to solve sales productivity mediocrity. Predictive models that understand who you are and that can make inferences about what you’re looking for.

Predictive models make inferences based on your searches and also what you look at. For example, a sales rep is modifying a Financial Services opportunity in Salesforce, so a predictive/relevance engine automatically suggests content that worked well in a similar situation in the past. Another example, when a sales rep searches for something, that search query is an explicit input into a predictive/relevance engine. And we just know ourselves by using the web that search is WAY faster than navigating through file /folder hierarchies. For sales people, we’ve tried over and over again to get them to go to the “sales drive”, it just doesn’t work, the future of rep productivity is google-like search for your enterprise content.

Conclusion

In B2B, you need the expertise both of marketing and of the salespeople to tell the right story to win the deal. But because of the massive complexity in companies like yours – thousands of customers, multiple storage repositories, millions of pieces of content, and so many different ways of helping your customers – human beings can’t do it alone. Combining the expertise of sales and marketing really requires a predictive model that incorporates everything you know as an organization about what’s most likely to help win each sales cycle.

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