sales targets
June 3, 2020

Missed your sales targets? Focus on relationships instead – B2B research

By Peter Lavers

Continuing our theme focussed on adapting to a new way of working, what about leaders who have missed their sales targets?

It is easy to overlook this community with the focus of this blog. But, as I’ve shared before Commercial Awareness is crucial for data, analytics & insight teams. So, it pays to stay close to the needs & concerns of your Sales team too.

For that reason, I’m delighted to welcome back guest blogger Peter Lavers to share their latest B2B client research. It focusses on the challenge faced by sales teams, with advice as to how they too can adapt to new ways of working.

Over to Peter to share from Customer Attuned’s experience on the approach that yields long-term value…

Are your sales targets shot down?

Many firms are keeping their heads above water, but their 2020 market and product development plans, sales targets, and profit forecasts haven’t just been shot through – they’ve been dive-bombed!

This is a massive challenge for sales and account managers who are primarily “numbers-driven”. They derive their purpose and measure success purely on quarterly sales performance, and by that indicator, they’re crashing.

We have been speaking with clients across sectors, and a consistent theme has come through that customers don’t want to be “sold to” by suppliers.

They want:

In other words, they want relationship.

Strange times for sales stereotype

I find it somewhat ironic that hard-nosed “just sell it; I don’t care to whom” salespeople are now having to spend their time building relationships with customers rather than ‘selling stuff’. This isn’t news to us at Customer Attuned – we established our business on the conviction that good B2B relationships are founded on trust, interdependence and mutual commercial benefit.

So, what’s to be done when you know you’re not going to meet your target this year? Well, here are some things to think about that can bring out some positives from the current crisis.

Have you noticed that under normal trading conditions many important projects and investments get cut or delayed “because we’re just short of our target”? We’ve seen it many times when a budget gets cut in month 12 to help ‘get over the line’. The sad thing is that it’s often longer-term and strategic investments that suffer, to the detriment of the customer and/or employee experience.

Strategic investments for ‘New Normal’ planning

Right now shareholder and stakeholder expectations have moderated enormously. They want to see survival assured and solid recovery/transformation plans in place to adapt to and win in the New Normal. Slash and burn cuts might help with the former, but not with the latter.

We would argue that now is the time to make highly focused strategic investments that will reap benefits for years to come, not just in the next quarter.

These include:

  • Customer centricity. Is it just talk in your organisation or have you genuinely aligned around who actually pays your wages?
  • Trust. Are you building it, or compromising it through counter-cultural, knee-jerk, or short-term tactics?
  • Insight led. Have you noticed how data driven the response to the pandemic is? You will need to have more data science capabilities than ever before to understand and adapt to the New Normal. Customer value management (CVM), re-segmenting your base, and AI-supported decision making will be key steps in your recovery.
  • Account management for long-term relationship quality. Or will you revert to a short-term, finger pointing and numbers obsessed culture?
  • People! A key component, adapting competence and capability frameworks and development plans to get the most out of the new ways of working that result from the points above and the lessons learned in surviving the pandemic
  • Systemic, end-to-end value chain management that joins up supplier management right through to customer management. You won’t be able to afford silos and internal politicking in the New Normal
  • Digital transformation. You will already be doing this – what can be accelerated because of what we’ve learned during the crisis and lockdown? For example, IoT (Internet of Things) has been talked about for years, but all-of-a-sudden it’s a key enabler of tech-driven Covid-19 track-and-trace initiatives (Apps). What are you doing to capitalise on its heightened recognition and acceptance?

I hope these points spark some hope for a successful future? At Customer Attuned we can help you with any or all of these opportunities.

How can you support your sales team?

Thanks to Peter for that advice from his research and CX experience. I would add that now is a great time for data & analytics leaders to help their sales colleagues. Build bridges by asking how you can help.

It can be eye-opening for sales leaders to realise that their ‘geeky‘ peers also care about commercial challenges. Offering help can build that relationship for the long term and you may well find them more receptive now.

Is it a good time for you to share how data & analytics can enable new commercial opportunities, or to invite them to co-create with you?