Sales organizations are starting the year 2023 facing high targets, an unpredictable market, and demanding B2B buyers. Virtual selling is here to stay with benchmark reports predicting more than 80% of sales being done fully digitally in 2023. Sales organizations need to optimize their sales processes, tools, and sales methods to win buyers, which brings a variety of other challenges.
To help sales organizations to win deals in 2023 we interviewed more than 100 Sales leaders in midsize to enterprise companies across Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. The goal of the interviews was to uncover their main Sales challenges and to gain insights into what strategies they plan to adopt to grow their Sales in 2023. Based on our State of B2B Sales survey we will outline the Top 4 Sales Challenges organizations face in 2023 and provide solutions on how to win predictably.
Challenge 1: Sales Content
The first challenge that became very apparent in our interviews with Sales leaders and Sales reps is the sales content they are provided with. The three main pain points for Sales team are:
- The Lack of Control over Sales content
- The lack of high-quality content
- Finding Sales content is too time-consuming
An alarming 95% of Sales reps said that they don’t have enough valuable content they can use to engage buyers. The question is: is there actually a lack of content, considering that 65% of content created by B2B organizations goes unused? 31% of the Sales leaders that participated in our State of B2B Sales Survey stated that their teams aren’t in control of what content is being used and what content is effective. The conclusion these numbers lead to is that the Sales content is either unfindable or unusable for Sales purposes.
Our study proved that Sales reps indeed do struggle with finding the right content to share with buyers as they dedicate on average 40% of their time to searching or creating content. This is a considerable amount of time, which doesn’t go unnoticed by leadership, as 25% of Sales leaders reported that their team spends too much time on finding content.
The outlined challenges boil down to two objectives that need to be achieved:
- Organizing the Sales content to be easily accessible and easy to find
- Increasing the quality of the Sales content
Solution 1: Analyzing Content Effectiveness
In order to increase the quality of the content that is provided to the Sales organization, the first steps should be to analyze the content effectiveness. Only by making decisions based on data it can be ensured that the sales content strategy isn’t built on subjective opinions, but on actual insights on what works.
The content effectiveness should be assessed based on the data on what kind of content Sales reps share with buyers and based on the buyers’ engagement with the content. This analysis can then be used to inform the content strategy and content production.
The following aspects should be analyzed in order to gain valuable insights on the content effectiveness:
- The content topics of the most effective content
- The formats of the most effective content (Articles, Reports, Infographics, Product Sheets)
- The purpose of the most effective content (Information, Comparisons, Engagement)
Solution 2: Aligning Content Creation and Sales
In most B2B organizations the team producing the Sales content is separated from the Sales organization. This leads to a misalignment of the content topics, formats, and often also to a lack of information. One key part in increasing the quality of the sales content is to align the Sales content production and the Sales team. These 3 key steps are a starting point in improving the alignment of these teams:
- Creating a content brief process for the Sales team
- Implementing a setup for Sales reps to share feedback
- Developing a Sales content strategy in alignment with the Sales outreach process, sales cycle, and content formats
Solution 3: Effective Sales Content Management
With the goal of reducing the time sales reps spend on searching for sales content, implementing an effective Sales content management system is a solution. This also brings the advantage that content that is easier to find will also get used more. While there are a variety of great sales content management solutions, such as Prezentor, the content management setup can also be based on tools that are already implemented. Internal tools such as Microsoft Teams or Sharepoint as well as Project management tools such as Monday.com can function well.
The key points to implementing an effective Sales content management are:
- Deciding on one solution to store and share all Sales content
- Organizing the content based on the Sellers’ needs (Region, Industry, Language)
- Categorizing the content in alignment with the Sales process (Stage of Sales cycle, buyer persona, content format and length)
By implementing the key points outlined in this chapter you can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your Sales organization, setting yourself up for success in 2023.
Challenge 2: Engaging B2B Buyers
Buyers have the power in today’s market. They use their power to research by themselves online using social media, communities, peer groups, virtual and in-person events and many more. They also get contacted by Sales reps across channels, which has increased their expectations of Sales reps immensely, because they have enough experiences to compare.
The results of our State of B2B Sales Survey show that Sales teams have three main pain points in engaging B2B buyers:
- Communicating value and visualizing their value proposition
- Demonstrating subject matter expertise
- Keeping buyers engaged in virtual meetings
In our study 42% of Sales reps indicated that they are unable to communicate value to buyers based on the information and resources that they are given. Additionally, another 34% of Sales reps stated that they struggle to visualize their value proposition. The root of this pain point is likely the complexity of their value proposition that is difficult to share with buyers in a first interaction.
The inability to convey value is likely also leading to a difficulty in demonstrating subject matter expertise to buyers. Buyers want to have the feeling that sales reps know what they are talking about. Actually, buyers today even want to be challenged by sales reps, as a recent LinkedIn study showed. This is also supported by the findings of our study, in which 25% of the interviewed Sales leaders said they are seeing more educated buyers today.
Communicating value to buyers is of high importance, as 74% of buyers end up making a purchase from the company that was the first to add value in their buyer journey. As 80% of B2B Sales happens online today, virtual meetings play a key role in communicating value to buyers. Our study showed however that 22% of Sales reps struggle to increase buyer engagement in online meetings. Additionally, 86% of buyers find that sellers use poor or no visuals at all, resulting in unengaged and uninterested buyers.
Solution 1: Outlining a clear and concise value proposition
Enabling sales reps to communicate value easily means that the value proposition needs to be clear and concise. Neither Sales reps nor buyers have time to go through a 10-minute pitch about the key benefits of a solution.
A clear value proposition should include these factors:
- The 3 main benefits of your solution for the buyer
- The key benefits for your solution for each buyer persona
- Quantifiable benefits to increase credibility and trust
Most importantly, the Sales reps must be trained regularly on the value proposition to ensure that they are able to communicate it promptly and consistently throughout 2023.
Solution 2: Create innovative best practices for buyer interactions
The buyers your Sales organization is interacting with on a day-to-day basis have had a lot of Sales meetings in the past years. To catch their attention and engage them in meetings, Sales organizations have to be innovative to enable Sales reps to achieve their targets.
Implementing best practices for buyer interactions can help to ensure that all Sales reps follow the same procedure. This allows Sales reps to learn from each other while enabling Sales leaders to gain valuable insights on the effectiveness of specific practices. The best practices are a standardized approach to the entire Sales process.
A best practice guideline should be based on the current practices of Sales reps within your organization. The best practice should outline:
- The practices top performers have in common
- Key talking points for each part of the Sales process
- Unique tools or formats relevant to your company (video formats, questionnaires, ratings, etc.)
Solution 3: Optimize the virtual Sales meeting setup
The virtual sales meeting is the first impression a buyer has of your solution and the Sales rep. That’s why it’s important that the meeting setup enables the Sales reps to do their best work to make a good impression and gain the buyer’s attention.
While a Sales organization needs enough tools to cover the functionalities they need to have meaningful interactions with buyers, the implemented tools should also be used to their full benefits.
Assessments to optimize the virtual Sales meeting setup:
- Do the current meeting tools cover all functionalities needed by Sales reps?
- Do Sales reps use all meeting tools they have access to?
- Are the meeting tools easy to use for buyers?
- Are the visuals Sales reps share in meetings enticing enough?
- Do you use engaging formats that can increase buyer engagement?
In addition to the technologies and tools that are used for virtual Sales meetings, the visuals play a key role in online meetings. There are a variety of tools that can help to improve the virtual selling setup such as demo tools, dynamic presentations, or ROI calculators.
Challenge 3: CRM Data
Sales reps spend a lot of time in the CRM updating records, accessing data they need to get valuable insights and reporting on their progress. So it is no surprise that such an important tool as the CRM also comes with its challenges.
The key challenges Sales organizations face with the CRM are two-fold:
- The lack of trust in the CRM data
- The lack of entering trustworthy CRM data
In our State of B2B Sales Survey 45% of Sales reps stated that they struggle with incomplete CRM data. This leads to Sales reps entering buyer interactions unprepared as they are missing important information to have valuable interactions with buyers.
The other side of the coin is that 24% of Sales reps that participated in our study said that they are failing to get reliable meeting data into their CRM. That means that the trustworthiness of the CRM data is a key concern. Sales leaders will likely struggle to make realistic forecasts, and handovers between Sales reps are less detailed, leading to unhappy buyers.
Solution 1: Optimizing the Sales Tech Stack
The Sales tech stack is the cornerstone of any Sales organization enabling them to work effectively and efficiently. A good Sales tech stack in 2023 should consist of the following technologies:
- CRM tools
- Sales intelligence
- Sales engagement
- Sales enablement
By integrating these technologies into your Sales tech stack, you will equip the Sales reps with the tools they need be productive and drive results. The advantage of adopting additional tools to your CRM is that they offer more data and ensure a higher degree of data accuracy within your CRM.
Solution 2: Integrating CRM Automations
The number of automations that are possible within your Sales organization depends on the technology setup. Generally, the more automations you can enable the less manual tasks will be left for the Sales reps. This can free up valuable time Sales reps can spend on reaching out to buyers rather updating data manually. Another benefit of automations is that they increase the CRM data accuracy, ensuring that records are standardized. This also leads to the CRM data being more reliable and trustworthy for reporting and forecasting purposes.
Considerations to evaluate the CRM automation potential:
- How many CRM tasks are currently being done manually?
- How much time do Sales reps spend completing and cleaning records daily?
- How much of all data entries are done manually?
- How much time do Sales reps spend with the CRM daily?
Solution 3: Establishing CRM Guidelines
The easiest way to ensure that CRM data is and stays accurate is to establish clear guidelines for anyone working with the CRM. Guidelines give everyone a clear outline of how CRM data entries should be done, when, and by whom. Additionally, such guidelines are a clear and consistent learning resource Sales reps can visit whenever they need it.
A guideline should outline all manual tasks that are being done in the CRM including:
- An overview of the steps a task includes
- The steps involved for different roles/ user permissions
- The minimal viable amount of information a CRM record needs to have
- A standardization of the information meeting and interaction notes need to contain
- A process for incomplete or false data records
Establishing and implementing guidelines does take time, which is why a lot of organizations down prioritize it to focus on other value-generating activities. Though the impact and gain of guidelines shouldn’t be underestimated. Standardized guidelines reduce misalignments, make processes more efficient and eliminate errors and incorrect data entries.
Challenge 4: Sales Training and Education
Even the most experienced Sales rep is only as good as the training and information they are provided with. The cost of long onboarding times and low-performing Sales reps is high, but many Sales organizations face challenges when it comes to effective training.
Onboarding new Sales hires and continuously training Sales reps should be on any Sales leader’s priority list. Our State of B2B Sales Survey showed that Sales training and education comes with a couple of challenges.
The key challenges Sales organizations face with Sales training:
- Training new hires effectively
- Keeping the Sales team educated
In our State of B2B Sales survey, 40% of sales teams reported that they are facing long onboarding times. On average it takes new sellers 10 months to reach full productivity. These are 10 months of lower Sales effectiveness and lower conversion rates, ultimately leading to fewer closed deals.
But Sales leaders seem to not only struggle with new hires. 30% of the leaders that participated in our survey reported that they struggle to keep their Sales reps educated. Essentially, Sales reps that are not educated on market trends and changes also close fewer deals. Additionally, 30% of Sales leaders stated that they experience a lack of consistency in the Sales reps’ performance. The biggest challenge with inconsistencies in performance is that they make Sales forecasts unpredictable.
Solution 1: Developing a Consistent Learning Setup
Consistent learning is a secure way to ensure that Sales reps stay educated on an ongoing basis. We all know that: once a program is finished more than half of the knowledge is getting forgotten. Sales leaders must ensure that essential knowledge and information is staying top of mind for their Sales reps. Another advantage of a consistent learning setup is that it decreases performance fluctuations. Having to recall information and best practices continuously means that Sales reps use these to inform their everyday work and therefore experience an uplift in productivity and quality.
Implementing mentoring programs can also be a helpful strategy in balancing performance fluctuations throughout the entire Sales team. Pairing experienced top performers with new Sales hires means that knowledge is shared more effectively. It can help in ensuring that new hires can learn from the best through actionable insights and tips. This can generally increase the knowledge sharing across the Sales organization and uplift efficiency and productivity.
Solution 2: Implementing Best Practices through Guides and Tutorials
An effective solution to ensure that new Sales hires ramp up faster is by giving them the information they need to learn at their own pace. Standardized guides with best practices are a useful tool in making all the information they need accessible for whenever they need it. A new Sales rep might have to revisit certain practices several times to process and use the information purposefully in their daily work.
These standardized guides and tutorials should be created based on the experiences and insights from top performers. This ensures that the exceptional work of top performers is not sold as a secret. While every Sales rep has their own recipe for success, a big part of a good dish is the ingredients you use. Having top performers write down best practices enables Sales leaders to scale successful tactics and implement them across the team. This, in turn, makes Sales processes and forecasts easier to plan and more predictable.
There are no magic tricks and quick wins that will ensure your Sales organization makes 2023 a successful year for your company. We outlined 11 different solutions to solve the key Sales challenges organizations face currently.
To make 2023 a successful year for your company, you should assess and optimize the following areas:
- Sales content creation and distribution
- Sales reps’ engagement with B2B buyers
- CRM Data hygiene and effectiveness
- Sales training and education
It’s important to note that all of the solutions involve strategic planning, cross-departmental alignment and initiatives that are carried out through the entire Sales function. Will they still pay off? Yes, they definitely will. Sales is not a separate function that can work without Marketing, Operations or Customer Success. That’s why a close alignment between Sales and these functions is key to setting your company for success.
You can download the full report “State of B2B Sales in 2023” and:
- Access the results of the State of B2B Sales survey
- Find considerations to assess your potential in 2023
- Get useful information and tips to improve performance
- Discover the key areas Sales leaders invest in for 2023