Sales success doesn’t come easily, especially in today’s business environment. Beyond the challenging external conditions facing most enterprises, sales cycles are lengthening. The percentage of opportunities lost to no decision is increasing. Recruiting, hiring and keeping top talent remains a struggle.

RAIN Group’s new report offers three strategies to help sales and enablement leaders overcome these challenges and be more effective.

By the Numbers: What Are the Top Challenges and Priorities?

In the survey of over 300 sales, enablement and company leaders, analysts wanted to know the current sales challenges and future priorities. Here’s a snapshot of the key findings:

Maybe you’re among the 52% of sales and enablement leaders who view recruiting and hiring as a top challenge. The data shows that many organizations are also struggling with economic conditions, generating qualified leads and developing sales skills.

Given the challenges facing most sales teams, their top priorities should come as little surprise:

More than two-thirds of respondents want to improve their team’s ability to communicate value (70%), improve the productivity of sellers and sales teams (68%), and increase business with existing accounts (64%). So, what tangible strategies can sales and enablement leaders use to reach this desired future state?

3 Effective Strategies for Achieving Sales Priorities

The most compelling aspect of the following strategies is that they help create a self-improving system. Do all three competently and you won’t need to focus so much on recruiting, for example — you’ll inherently develop your talent in-house. Generating quality leads will come as a byproduct of cultivating multi-skilled sellers and effective sales managers.

1. Improve Sales Productivity

Productivity isn’t about tools (although some tools can help), it’s about habits. Specifically, it’s about building habits and changing behaviors, which you can do with your existing sales team. For example:

  • Plan your actions weekly and track progress with an accountability partner.
  • Focus on your agenda and priorities.
  • Calendar investment time, so you maximize the time spent on activities that drive the best results.
  • Put your greatest impact activity (what we call your GIA) first.

Imagine if your less-productive sellers learned to stop wasting four hours daily. RAIN Group’s productivity study found that was the average amount of time that most people spend on non-value-add activities during their workday.

Top-performing sellers not only know what their high-return activities are, but they also spend most of their time on them.

2. Develop Multi-Skilled Sellers

Training sellers in specific skills can be a slippery slope. Frequently, organizations focus on developing one or two skills. But today’s sellers need more than that to be successful. They need to be skilled across a range of competencies.

Without a system in place, sellers develop imbalanced skill sets. Without reinforcement and coaching support, they don’t learn how to apply the skills to their selling. To develop well-rounded sellers who become top performers, take a systematic approach to sales training, and embed a sales method in the organization.

It helps to have a model. Some organizations build sales competency models themselves. Many use research-validated models, such as this one:

top performing seller model

Top performers are skilled across multiple categories of selling — starting in the center of the model and moving outward. This means being able to communicate and deliver value, sell across the sales cycle, grow accounts, succeed with people (develop relationships, lead sales conversations, and influence buyers) and maximize productivity.

3. Leverage Sales Managers

A great sales manager can be the linchpin that takes your sales team from average to top-performing. If you have an effective manager with consistent coaching and tailored training, your sellers are more likely to be top performers.

Yet too many organizations neglect developing their sales managers.

For your sales managers to be the most effective, they need to:

  • Motivate sellers to bring energy, consistency and quality daily.
  • Help sellers focus on the right activities.
  • Help sellers execute on high yield activities.
  • Advise and coach sellers on leading sales conversations, growing accounts, and other priorities.
  • Develop the knowledge, skills, and attributes that sellers need, then reinforce them.

Take a Coordinated Approach to Achieve Sales Priorities

To overcome your sales challenges and achieve your priorities, you must take a coordinated approach to sales team development.

  • Sales leaders may understand the importance of enhancing their sellers’ productivity, but many approach it wrong (relying too heavily on technology, for example).
  • The core sales competencies required for success may be understood, but many teams struggle with adopting and applying new skills in actual sales environments.
  • Sales managers may be great sellers themselves but lack the management and coaching skills required to support the success of their sellers.

In a challenging environment, the wrong mindset and approach can make your challenges feel insurmountable. Start by taking a coordinated approach, including an honest inventory of where your team stands today, where they need to be in the future, and the practical steps you can take to get there.