Buyers today are more hyper-educated than ever. Even before approaching a salesperson, they have spent hours researching products and getting a general idea of the solutions available. And though the buyer's role has changed over the years to be more informed, companies have not altered their selling approach.

For a company to be successful, however, its sales approach must evolve.

Qvidian recently released results from our annual research initiative that surveyed hundreds of executives and sales leaders from various industries, markets, and company sizes to assess the changing objectives and challenges facing sales organizations.

We identified three top challenges facing organizations this year.

Challenge 1. Sales Rep Ramp-Up

According to the report, 36% of organizations find "ramping up new sales reps takes too long" as one of the top reasons why their teams are failing to reach their quota goals.

Unlike other roles, sales is one of the only jobs where you hire somebody with the expectation that you'll lose money over the first six months. This results in not only organizations losing money but also in adding pressure to sales leaders.

At the root of this problem is how organizations approach both onboarding and delivering new reps the resources and guidance they need when they need it. The research also indicated that on average, a new sales rep takes 7-9 months to be fully productive.

There are two main reasons why the sales rep ramp-up period is as long as it is:

  1. The fire hose effect
    This occurs during onboarding when sales reps receive information faster than they can process it while not having the proper context to apply it. Instead of implementing a strategic training and ramp-up program, sales leaders are still resorting to "info dumping" on new hires.
  2. Disconnected systems
    A whopping 80% of companies that rated ramping up new reps as very important to reaching quota attainment also reported that their systems are not connected. This leads to a disorganized flow of content and resources, especially for new hires.

    The solution is for organizations to integrate systems like CRMs, coaching tools, sales enablement, and content management with a complete end-to-end sales execution strategy. That helps give new sales reps the context they need to be successful in deals earlier and thus improve ramp-up times.

Challenge 2: Personalization and Communicating Value

Sales teams are not meeting quotas in large part because they are not personalizing the buyer journey and communicating value at every turn. Some 55% of the organizations indicated that the reason for this is that they struggle to identify the tailored selling content among all the materials they have.

We are all well aware that the buying process has changed. Buyers are more informed, more prepared, and no longer entering into a conversation with a salesperson without a basic idea of the solutions available.

Despite this fact, there is still a huge disconnect between what the buyer wants and what the sales rep provides. This disconnect contributes to the cycle of inefficiency in most sales organizations.

Many organizations have implemented CRM systems to help them conquer these problems, but the gap still remains. Although many business leaders rely on CRM as a lifeline for their sales reps to grow and maintain relationships with new and existing customers, it is simply a tool to collect data—that is all.

CRM offers a wealth of back-end value, but for sales reps on the front lines, additional assistance is needed when speaking to customers if they are going to really change how they do business. As such, the sales execution market is now working to boost CRM's capabilities by filling in the gap between what it can do and what is needed.

Challenge 3. Lack of Efficiency

One of the leading challenges standing in the way of sales leaders capturing new accounts and upselling existing ones is the inability of managers to coach effectively. Similar to sales rep ramp-up time, disconnected systems intensify this problem, with over 70% of organizations report that the tools and systems their sales reps use in the sales process are only somewhat or slightly connected.

Even more shocking, 22% of organizations report their systems are not at all connected.

In addition to streamlining systems to improve efficiency, sales teams should also consider implementing and using sales analytics. Real sales analytics can go far deeper that a simple CRM dashboard and offer actionable insights to better drive results.

Currently, many organizations struggle with gaining visibility into the sales cycles, which leads to ad hoc decisions and bottlenecks. Sales analytics allows sales leaders to identify patterns and indicators of both successes and failures.

Surprisingly, this recent research also indicates that while 85% of organizations create reports to share insights with the leadership team, the process (in many cases) is lengthy and provides only minimal analytic depth.

For example, only 28% of organizations actually use these reports and the data to improve their training for sales reps. This indicates that most organizations are in the infancy of sales analytics capabilities where they are tracking and reporting progress but not creating predictive models and alerts to improve sales execution.

* * *

To tackle these challenges, organizations must improve key areas of their sales organization to successfully build, execute, and optimize on all sales execution initiatives.

The good news is these research results indicate that sales leaders are starting to recognize the need to instigate transformation and reinvent success by making their teams more agile. That is a step in the right direction towards closing the strategy and sales execution gap.

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The Three Biggest Challenges of Today's Sales Reps

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image of Christopher Faust

Christopher Faust is the chief marketing officer at Qvidian, a provider of sales execution solutions.

LinkedIn: Christopher Faust