Mind the sales gap - seven compelling reasons you need to know where yours are

By George Brontén - Jan 04, 2017

George Brontén

In the past year, I’ve seen more and more organizations get on board with developing quality systems that genuinely support sales performance. We’ve helped organizations develop the processes and systematize behaviors that have yielded 50-80% improvements in quota attainment, increased the size of deals, and decreased waste.

But my hopes for a stronger 2017 across the industry are tempered by experience, and the knowledge that we’re going on ten years of overall declining sales performance, with no clear end in sight. Fortunately, several organizations are working to combat this decline with research and advocacy. Among them, The Sales Benchmark Index, who recently published the 400-page guide, How to Make Your Number in 2017.

In it, SBI argues for the value of conducting a new type of gap analysis, that examines the gap between your current practices and emerging best practices, which he distinguishes from standard best practices.

The difference between best practices and emerging best practices

Examine and close the gap between your sales practices, current best practices and emerging best practices.
George Brontén

According to SBI, a current best practice is an approach or methodology that is well established within the industry and used by many or most companies. Emerging best practices, by contrast, are used by only the top organizations, and create significant differentiation to accelerate growth.

Much of SBI’s ebook is concerned with exploring the emerging best practices engaged by the top organizations, and how other organizations can attain the same benefits. They lay out a plan that begins with performing the gap analysis. Let’s take a look at how the principle of emerging best practices gap analysis can be applied to annual sales planning.

Conducting an emerging best practice gap analysis for your sales organization

Organizations like CSO Insights have done terrific work in identifying emerging best practices for the sales industry, by analyzing the behavior of hundreds of sales organizations and categorizing them according to sales performance. In a 2016 report and subsequent interview with our team, Tamara Schenk identified five keys that differentiate world class performers from the rest:

  1. Strategic engagement in social selling
    World class organizations execute on a consistent strategy for social media engagement throughout the marketing and sales process that aligns with how customers use social media.
  2. Sales and marketing alignment
    World class organizations create a consistent customer experience throughout their buying journey, from marketing to sales.
  3. Sales process alignment with the customer journey
    World class organizations don’t settle for simple marketing and sales alignment, but take the time to also align the entire process with the customer.
  4. Dynamic value messaging
    World class organizations vary the value message based on the customer’s needs and journey.
  5. Customer-aligned content
    World class organizations don’t rely on tired old brochures and generic case studies to make their point--they develop content that aligns with the needs of the customer.
In our work with clients and partners, we’ve further identified another three critical characteristics of an emerging best practice sales process:
  • Dynamic - it adapts to the needs of each customer and each sale
  • Optimized - it improves over time based on data
  • Coachable - it provides clear insight for managers into where each salesperson will most benefit from coaching

Taken together, these emerging best practices provide a good starting point for conducting your organization’s gap analysis.

Understanding where your sales organization’s gaps are will give you a significant head start against your competitors when it comes to quota attainment for the new year. Plus, here are seven more reasons to know where your gaps are:

  1. You’ll enable consistent execution across the organization
  2. You’ll identify hidden growth opportunities
  3. You’ll improve customer experience
  4. You’ll increase deal size and win rates
  5. You’ll increase revenue per salesperson
  6. You’ll create more accurate forecasts
  7. You can drive alignment among marketing, sales, operations, and executive strategy

So take a moment to slow down and mind your gaps. This time next year, you’ll be glad you did.

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George Brontén
Published January 4, 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.