What World-Class Performers Do Differently: The CSO Insights 2016 Sales Best Practices Study

shutterstock_377906299What is world-class? In sports, it is easy to define. World champions and Olympic medalists are world-class. But what is world-class in sales? Revenue performance? Maybe, but how do you get there? What are the behaviors that drive world-class sales performance?

At CSO Insights, we are passionate about all things sales performance. We research sales performance from different perspectives, including behavioral and metric perspectives. We investigate, for instance, the roles of sales process and sales management, the growing impact of strategic sales force enablement, and the roles of technology and compensation.

Our CSO Insights 2016 Sales Best Practices Study has just been released. “Drawing Back the Bow” is this year’s cover story. It creates an umbrella theme for the 12 behaviors that have the greatest impact on sales performance.

For the thirteenth year, this study identifies those behaviors that have the biggest impact on sales performance, measured by well known key performance indicators such as quota attainment, qualified opportunities, new account acquisition, YOY existing customer growth or average account billing. Top performers in these areas do a few things differently. They focus on what matters. They focus on the top behaviors that have the greatest impact on sales performance, collectively and consistently. And that makes a huge difference.

The world-class segment is only 7.7% of the overall study population of more than 1,700 respondents, 1,200 of whom work in complex sales. But they achieved 21% better sales performance.

A sales performance difference this large cannot be ignored by any sales leader. Now, what are these top behaviors that drive sales performance, and what does it take to become excellent at those behaviors, to become a world-class performer?

From the top 12 behaviors we have three behaviors that were also top behaviors last year:

Sales and marketing are aligned in what our customers want and need (World-Class 94%, All Respondents 39%)

The key differentiator to successful sales and marketing alignment is this: being aligned to “what our customers want and need.” And that means beginning with the customer’s journey as the main design point when addressing this challenge. Here are four steps to improve sales and marketing alignment in a “customer-core” way:

  • Shared vision of success: A shared vision describes how the organization creates value for the customers and how success will be measured. Following the customer’s journey makes it easier to create this vision, and revenue contribution has to be one of the measures of success for both sales and marketing.
  • Shared strategy to create value in every interaction: A shared strategy for creating and delivering customer value is necessary―from first contact and all the way through the buying decision and the customers using the products, services, and solutions successfully.
  • Shared marketing, sales, and service processes: Based on this shared vision and strategy, sales and marketing have to agree on a shared sales and marketing process, ideally powered by integrated engagement and selling methodologies. It is essential that these efforts continue after the buying decision has been made.
  • Shared technology: Integrated processes require integrated technology from the website to marketing automation to sales enablement to the CRM system. Integration is mandatory to leverage the potential of successful sales and marketing alignment.

Our organization is highly effective in allocating the right resources to pursue large deals (World-class 94%, all respondents 40%)

Allocating the right resources to the right opportunities is a challenge for most organizations because resources are like budgets—there is never enough to go around. In many organizations, it’s still the loudest voice that gets the biggest share. But the right resources should only be placed on the most valuable deals to increase the probability of winning those deals. For example, sales managers evaluating deals should consider the strategic value for the customer and the value for the sales organization. It is exactly this deal evaluation process that is often missing in many sales management approaches. When decisions about investments and resource allocation have to be made, the process of making those decisions should be tied to the sales process and the decision gates the customer must go through.

When coaching sales professionals on leads and opportunities, sales managers should always investigate where the customer is along their customer’s journey. As soon as a deal comes close to the customer’s “change the status quo” decision, the sales manager and salesperson should also evaluate this deal against others. Ideally, this step takes place in a funnel coaching session, as it’s about evaluating this deal in the context of other opportunities being worked by the salesperson or the sales team.

We know why our top performers are successful (World-class 94%, all respondents 44%)

Look at the performance rankings of any sales team, and it becomes evident that not all salespeople are created equal. There are often key performers who regularly appear on the top of the chart. Just how valuable are these individuals?

Firms that excel at knowing who their top performers tend to focus on assessing three things. First, they determine the skills and competencies that sales professionals apply in their daily workflow. Doing so, they not only assess what top salespeople are doing, but also how they do it. And that’s a key finding for any sales force enablement approach, especially for onboarding and coaching. Second, they assess talent, the “behavioral DNA.” Third they assess the cultural fit because not every A-player is an A-player in every culture.

The key benefits of this approach are to understand what makes your top performers successful (we all know who they are!). Then, sales force enablement has to ensure that best practices can be shared and that the hiring process is consistently adjusted based on the latest assessment findings. Furthermore, enablement leaders have to ensure that their onboarding process is tailored accordingly.

Click here, download your copy and check out the other top behaviors!

This article was initially published @ Top Sales Magazine, July 2016

2 Comments

  1. Hi Tamara, thanks for sharing this research!

    For this point:
    Based on this shared vision and strategy, sales and marketing have to agree on a shared sales and marketing process, ideally powered by integrated engagement and selling methodologies.

    How do you recommend aligning selling methodologies with engagement? Would you start with documenting the sales process and its related milestones, and then identifying content that can help nurture the prospect in order to achieve those milestones?

    • Hi Alex,
      I’d begin with understanding the customer’s journey from the early awareness phases up to the buying and the implementation phase.
      As you mentioned, the milestones, the gates on each side are really important to capture and to define. Because these gates define the goals salespeople want to achieve in each phase. Then, you can map your current content to the different phases and see whether it fits or not (regarding buyer roles, customer challenges, the specific goals of this phase, etc.)
      Then, there will be content to be improved, content to be redesigned, and there will be gaps. The redundancies are easier to handle…
      An idea: the dynamics that have to be navigated by the salesperson along the customer’s journey are a great framework to check content, and to see how methodologies are reflected (in the internal content). Here is the link to a blog post that might be helpful in addition to this one:
      Navigate Dynamics, Manage Mechanics

Submit a Comment