2016 count-down: our top ten most-read articles

By George Brontén - Jan 11, 2017

George Brontén

We’re still waiting on year-end statistics from the analytics companies to tell us how the year went for our industry on the whole, but we’re ready to announce that 2016 was a remarkable year for us.

In addition to winning the Top Sales World Best Sales Technology award, we also won an award for our methodologies white paper, plus the Top Sales World 2016 Top Company Blog Award. That latter got us wondering what it was that our readers loved about the blog, so we took a dive into our data to find out.

We discovered that you really enjoyed reading about sales methodologies. In fact, our top three most-read articles were on Challenger Sales methodology, a history of methodologies, and the difference between methodology and process (respectively). We were pleased to see that articles about process - which we consider to be extremely important - took three of the top ten ranking positions.

Beyond that, it’s hard to find a common thread among our top ten most-read articles of 2016. They range from opportunity management to metrics, and don’t seem to follow a common structure. For instance, our most controversial piece, titled Content marketing has failed (which was also my personal favorite), ranked slightly below the decidedly non-controversial piece titled What is your sales pipeline definition. If they have something in common other than the industry, we don’t know what it is.

Maybe you can tell us. For your reading and debating pleasure, here’s the count-down - Membrain’s top ten most-read articles of 2016:

#10: Five things sales managers should do every day

Number ten on the most-read list was this great piece by Ago Cluytens of RAIN Group, on the hot top of sales management. Cluytens points out that most organizations spend a lot of money and time focusing on individual salespeople, while neglecting the development and effectiveness of the sales managers. He cites statistics from RAIN Group’s research, showing that only 29% of salespeople feel that their sales management gets “maximum performance” from them, and a similarly depressing 31% feel that their managers have the necessary skills to manage and coach them. He then presents a plan--the “five things” of the title--for getting the sales management team doing the right daily activities to be effective.

Clearly, the topic of sales management interested readers. We suspect Cluytens’ own reputation contributed to this piece’s popularity, as well as the focus on actionable data. Do you agree, or was there some other reason you loved it?

#9: Organizing sales process workflows within your CRM

We were not surprised to find this article on CRM among the top ten. After all, your CRM sits at the center of your sales team’s workflow, yet often fails to deliver on its promise. It’s no wonder it’s a perennial hot topic. In this piece, we focus on the reasons behind those failed promises, and how to use workflows within the CRM to increase user adoption and sales effectiveness. Since the piece published, we’ve also released a Salesforce plug-in that makes it simple for Salesforce users to set up these workflows without leaving the Salesforce interface.

#8: Sales metrics: Five KPIs you must track

In the age of big data, it’s easy to get lost in the noise. In this piece, we cut through the clutter to offer up five key performance indicators every sales team should track for greater sales effectiveness. Even though this piece was published in 2015, it continued to be a popular read for 2016. We think that’s because metrics continue to be a hot topic, and sales teams are eager to use them to best advantage. What do you think?

#7: Sales opportunity management: Six disciplines you must have

This is another perpetual favorite from 2015 that continued to be read in 2016. We suspect the topic of opportunity management will never lose its appeal. In this piece, we address how complex selling has changed, and what that means to how sellers can differentiate themselves. Though the environment continues to change, we believe these six disciplines will always be key to sales effectiveness.

#6: Content marketing has failed

Okay, I admit - this was my favorite piece we published in 2016. Maybe that’s because I love to hate content marketing, or maybe I just enjoy a little bit of controversy. Whatever the reason, it turns out you loved talking about it too. We discussed the failure of content marketing to deliver qualified leads that salespeople actually can convert to business. Then we covered the four biggest reasons why, and the far-reaching consequences of content marketing’s failure. Finally, we provided four ways sales team can leverage the lessons of content marketing and make it work for them after all. You chimed in, telling us all the ways we were wrong, as well as the many ways you agreed with us, and how you’re addressing the problem in your own organizations. Your interactions probably contributed to the article’s popularity. We hope we’ll continue having these conversations into 2017.

#5: What is your sales pipeline definition?

This deceptively simple question gets to the heart of why most sales organizations are terrible at forecasting. Without a clear sales pipeline definition, how can you possibly analyze the health of your pipeline, or trust your forecasts? Obviously, we’re not alone in thinking this is a critically important topic, since this piece has been a top trending article for us since 2015. Are you confident in how your organization defines your pipeline? Are your forecasts consistently accurate? If not, it’s probably time to revisit this perennial favorite.

#4: How to design a sales process for complex sales

This piece on sales process was 2016’s top-read article from 2015, and it’s easy to see why. Sales process is such a critical piece of the sales effectiveness puzzle, yet so many organizations fail to do it well. This piece breaks it down step by step, making it possible for any organization to build an effective process.

#3: Sales process and sales methodology--what’s the difference?

As we count down to #1, we’re now at the point where every item left on the list is about methodology. Clearly, you’ve been thinking a lot about this topic! We created this piece because we recognize there’s a lot of confusion about the differences between process and methodology, and we decided to clear it up once and for all. We later updated this piece with a follow-up, which draws on interviews with the leaders of seven top methodology companies (the full results of those interviews were also published in this award-winning white paper) to develop a comprehensive view of the difference and why it matters. The latter piece was popular too, but did not make it into the top ten. Why do you think that was?

#2: A brief history of sales methodologies for sales leaders

This one, to be honest, surprised us in its popularity. We wrote it primarily for the purpose of piquing your interest in our methodology white paper, and had no idea you would love it so much that you’d share it with all your colleagues. We start the piece with a look at the state of sales in the 1800s and 1900s, then fast forward to the birth of modern sales methodologies in the 1950s and 60s. The piece includes a timeline of the development of ten top sales methodologies, then of course - it links to our award-winning white paper.

#1: Is solution selling dead? Is Challenger sales the new king?

Since its unveiling in 2012, Challenger Sales has remained a hot topic in the industry. The organization deliberately positioned itself as a literal “challenger” ensuring its controversial status straight out of the starting gate. We think that’s partly why this piece gained so much traction that it became our (drum roll, please) #1 most-read article in 2016. It also generated an almost record-breaking number of comments in the article’s comment section and on LinkedIn. Those comments were filled with love and hate, and much lively debate in between the two.

Did you read all ten of these in 2016? Which was your favorite? Do you think these topics mark a trend that will continue into 2017, or will there be new topics that everyone can’t stop talking about?

We don’t own a crystal ball, but we think that, in addition to the perennial favorite topics, 2017 is likely to include a lot of conversation about account-based selling and the need for increased sophistication among inside sales teams.

I can’t wait to hear your thoughts - please share them with us by leaving a comment below.

George Brontén
Published January 11, 2017, written by

George Brontén

George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the world's 1st Sales Effectiveness Software that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills and processes.