Three Best Practices of Top Performers

By Selling Power Editors

Wouldn’t you like to know what it takes to go from better to best? SEC Solutions, a sales consulting and training group that is part of the Corporate Executive Board, has worked with hundreds of sales teams over the past decade to study which behaviors, activities, skills, and attitudes on the front line make the greatest impact on productivity and efficiency.  Its tracking tool, the B2B Sales Index  – which has benchmarked the responses of more than 10,000 individual salespeople from global sales teams – highlights three things top performers do to achieve greater success than their peers.

1. Top performers invest in a combination of presales needs analysis and internal relationship building.

High achievers tend to focus their efforts on presales needs analysis and coordination across internal resources.  The best sales reps (defined as at the top 15 to 20 percent of an organization’s performance curve), spend twice as much time on early-stage needs analysis and 25 percent more time lining up internal delivery resources.

These results are consistent with other research from the Corporate Executive Board: The sales professional who is able to challenge customers to think differently about their business and bring constructive tension into the sales process (the “Challenger Rep“) is three times more likely to outperform other salespeople.

2. Top-performing sales teams are more likely to spend time strategizing with their managers, finding innovative ways to overcome customer objections, and tackling obstacles that may be preventing a deal from closing.

Salespeople are spending much less time presenting solutions face-to-face with customers and more time preparing for those interactions with sales managers before they happen. B2B Sales Index data shows that sales teams spent 20 percent less time presenting solutions to customers between 2007 and 2009 compared with 2004 through 2006, and 40 percent less time developing and redesigning the solution with customers. Time spent strategizing with managers, however, was up more than 80 percent in 2007 through 2009 compared with 2004 through 2006.

3. Top performers avoid “order-tracker syndrome.”

The B2B Sales Index shows that low- to middle-performing salespeople spend 75 percent more time (compared with high performers) tracking orders and customer payment activities.  This is a clear symptom of a much larger problem: Sales leaders in many organizations are failing to match skill profiles to job roles and responsibilities.  The results are misaligned account-management strategies and salespeople who are drawn to unintended activities.

Overall, it’s clear that the value of a sales experience no longer lies in golf outings and expensive dinners. Buyers are looking to learn something new and useful, and they expect salespeople to come to the table with some real insight about their business. When salespeople are aligned with customers in a strategic-partnership approach, and when sales managers get involved long before the face-to-face meeting with customers happens, companies can increase revenue and improve interactions with key accounts.

Check out more results from the B2B Sales Index.