Managers at companies across industries and parts of the world and in frustratingly many different disciplines all find it harder and slower to get their work done. One of the joys of business is that it can seem absurdly simple at times: find a need, create a product or service to fill it, make a sale, collect revenue, invest some, take the rest as profit, and repeat.
But when companies are as large as they are today, when supply chains are so long, decision-making so complex, customers so demanding, information so profuse, and employees so dispersed – to name only a few issues – a simple concept becomes incredibly complicated and hard to manage.
Take B2B sales. The way businesses buy products and services is no longer simple or predictable, and many sales executives are changing the way they run their teams as a result. Reps often feel they need more information about customers more quickly than ever so they can customize their pitch to appeal to all the diverse members of a company’s “buying group” (such as a head of data privacy and a social media manager for example).
And sales leaders have tried to give them what they want – they’ve provided their teams with product and industry experts, and also lots of back-office support so that reps can get on with closing more deals at a faster rate.
But in practice what this has meant is that sales reps are often hit with too much information and “help” all at once. Ever more complex products, rising customer expectations, and a larger group that must all agree before a purchase is made all conspire to lengthen sales cycles.
In fact, 87% of sales heads now say that more complexity in the sales process seems is lowering seller productivity and conversion rates, according to CEB data.
Sellers’ Struggle with Internal Complexity
Sales teams that are overburdened in this way have a 12% lower conversion rate, according to a 2015 CEB survey. The main reasons for seller frustration can be divided into three categories.
Internal complexity: Many sales leaders have responded to changing sales dynamics by making the seller job bigger in scope. Sellers have to not only be knowledgeable about more products, and more industries than ever before, but also coordinate with a larger set of internal stakeholders, all while complying with changing regulatory requirements.
The increasingly complex role mean that reps spend, on average, 16.4% of the sales cycle time waiting on internal approvals and coordination, all of which hinders their ability to progress through deals.
External complexity: Changing customer dynamics, particularly diverse buying groups, are making it more difficult for buying teams to reach a consensus.
On average, a complex purchase includes 6.8 customer stakeholders across 3.7 different functions, which leads to longer sales cycle times.
Product complexity: Expanding product offerings and rising customer demands mean sellers struggle to customize offerings and meet company-specific requirements.
Almost three-quarters – 72% – of reps see the range of solutions they have to offer to customers constantly growing, which adds yet further complexity to the sales process.
4 Ways To Simplify The Seller Experience
The best response is to simplify the internal sales team to reduce complexity and ultimately sell more products. Senior sales managers should focus on four main tactics.
Focus sales support: In an effort to increase sales, companies try to include support functions evenly across the entire sales process. But this often adds to internal complexity and increases seller confusion. The trick is to go beyond simply offering broad support, and intentionally pick the precise moments where providing targeted support will help sellers the most.
Reduce non-sales distractions: Sales reps often find themselves bombarded with requests to participate in company events – everything from surveys to marketing initiatives to training. While these may seem harmless, and in some cases even beneficial, what companies fail to recognize is the burden these requests place on sellers. Sales leaders need to find a way of managing their reps’ time to avoid distractions and focus more on core selling activities.
Streamline seller workflow: While well intentioned, sales support often results in greater complexity without resolving the underlying issue. The solution is for companies to map workflows and identify where the problems exist so they can target support resources in the right areas.
Easy resource navigation: The new complex selling environment has produced a seemingly endless array of seller support resources. Simply navigating these resources has become a herculean task for most sales reps. Companies must make it easier for reps to get the support they need at the right time, simultaneously cutting costs and simplifying the seller experience.