IDC™s 2010 Sales Barometer Study: Guidance for Sales and Sales Operations Executives

The past 12 months have been, without a doubt, very difficult on technology sales organizations. As part of our annual benchmarks research, we went out to the field and surveyed leading hardware, software, and services sales executives to see just how bad of a year it’s been, and more importantly, what leading organizations plan to do in 2010 to improve their organization.

The bad news?. . . . ½ of all sales reps in 2009 didn’t hit their quota and buyers remain dissatisfied with the quality of interaction with their vendors’ sales reps.

The good news?. . . . There is significant opportunity for improvement.

So where to start? Well, it’s all about improving sales productivity. Easy, right? Well, certainly not.

Let’s start with why improving sales productivity should be one of your top objectives for 2010, as it is for many of our study’s respondents? Here are 3 reasons:

  1. The rise in sales costs is outpacing revenue growth: Sales investment is forecast to increase by 4.7% in 2010, outpacing the 3.2% growth in IT global revenue. (refer to the chart below)
  2. More leads are needed to close a deal now than ever before. (2/3rds of companies experienced an increase in leads needed to close a deal during the past 6 months)
  3. 72% of companies have seen an increase in buying cycles during the past 12 months; and IT buyers confirm this trend based upon IDC’s recent customer experience study. (click here to attend our upcoming telebriefing re: this IT Buyer Experience study)
In prior posts I’ve spoken about IDC’s sales productivity framework, which includes five key levers: Talent Management, Sales Management, Sales Methodology, Customer Intelligence and Sales Enablement. All of these levers are critical in driving sales productivity in organizations. More specifically, here are some things that sales and sales operations executives should do in 2010:
  • Maintain the momentum for sales productivity improvement efforts. The downturn in 2009 convinced many sales executives to prioritize productivity improvement initiatives. These initiatives are at risk in 2010 as revenue growth, albeit low, returns to the IT sector.
  • Empower sales operations as the driving force for productivity improvements. Sales operations must be considered a strategic driver of process improvements across the sales organization in addition to its more tactical support function. Key areas of focus from a people, process, and technology perspective include sales enablement, customer intelligence, account planning, and pipeline health.
  • Optimize sales’ time. Yes, reduce sales’ administrative time which is about 20% of the average sales person’s work week; however, focus more on improving the quality of the time invested by sales reps in preparing for customer interactions. (Sales reps spend approximately 17% of their time today on preparing for customer interactions) Customer intelligence and sales enablement are key levers to increase the quality of this time spent. This strategy is in alignment with feedback from IT buyers, indicating that over 50% of sales reps are insufficiently prepared for customer meetings.
  • Improve sales enablement. Sales reps continue to find it difficult to leverage internal resources (e.g., marketing assets, subject matter experts, process training tools) to help them optimize customer interactions. Sales operations must play a pivotal role in establishing, executing, and governing sales enablement initiatives across the sales organization. Alignment with marketing will facilitate this process as they are responsible for the marketing content and asset life cycle.
  • Better leverage sales automation. The successful deployment of a sales force automation (SFA) system is a foundational element for a productive sales organization. This system must be consistently deployed and adopted, including maintenance of high-quality data in the system, and leveraged throughout sales’ processes. Embed newer sales automation technologies within your SFA to increase productivity, including solutions to customer intelligence, content and asset management, and internal social media applications to better leverage tribal knowledge. (yes, that would be Sales 2.0 applications)

I invite you to comment on this topic as well as share what you’re seeing “in the field” by joining the discussion!

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