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Business leaders claim that 70% of sales professionals regularly miss targets

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In an Artesian survey, the overwhelming majority reported that three quarters of their sales force did not achieve their quotas on a regular basis and classed 30 per cent as weak or struggling.

The results of the survey, highlight the frustrations that have existed for decades, reinforcing the ‘Pareto Principle’ that 80 per cent of sales are delivered by 20 per cent of the salesforce. 

This was further compounded by the finding that 90 per cent of respondents felt that if they fired their weaker performers it would not greatly impact revenue.

“Sales organisations have not progressed in decades,” said Real Business contributor Andrew Yates, CEO at Artesian. “Especially when we consider the advances in technology and access to information now available – if the majority of the sales team is not performing to a high level we have to urgently ask ourselves why. Why are we not focused on building vital traditional sales skills and developing behaviours that we know result in sales success?”

The survey shed an interesting light on attitudes to technology and in particular social media. It revealed that while 97 per cent of leaders thought technology made it easier to identify, connect with or get noticed by customers, 80 per cent also thought that the flood of communications that a customer receives makes it harder for sales people to be noticed and easier for them to be ignored. 

This confusion was also reflected in attitudes to the availability of information delivered by sources such as Google, customer websites and social media, with 42 per cent saying that it had made selling easier, but 40 per cent saying it had become harder because there was a ‘deluge’ of information.  

“What this tells us is that sales teams are not able to make the best use of social intelligence. Clearly many managers, directors and even CEOs are unaware that there are powerful technology tools that deliver accurate data, often based on social media that can empower a sales person to identify opportunities and make a connection with a customer. 

The responsibility for making the entire sales team into ‘star performers’ lies with business leaders, who can give them the tools they need to change their professional behaviour and turn around their results,” said Yates.

There is blanket recognition that timely and regular insight into the markets occupied by customers has an important role, with 96 per cent saying it would be helpful, and three quarters of respondents stating that customer-relevant knowledge was the most important factor in gaining the attention of a buyer.

These findings are mirrored by a recent survey from the Forrester Group which surveyed 319 executive buyers finding that they reported 76 per cent of sellers did not know enough about them or their business.

The survey carried out by Artesian, also sought to establish key characteristics of top sales performers and there was overwhelming agreement that these included; being a good listener, being informed about customers, preferring to act like themselves, believing in face-to-face meetings and always being self-motivated. 80 per cent of the respondents agreed that always applying best habits was the key to high sales performance and not behaving as a ‘maverick’.

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