Are Your Reps Really Ready to Sell? What the Numbers Show

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

By now, the excitement of this year’s enormously expensive sales kickoff is nothing more than a distant memory. The information you shared there is probably distant, too.

And that’s a big problem, even if your organization’s first half fiscal year turned out okay.

Today’s savvy buyers have heightened expectations. Equipping sales reps to meet the challenges of today’s buying environment—and deliver revenues against it—means they need to go beyond what most organizations do today. Unfortunately marketwide numbers aren’t all that encouraging.

  • Sirius Decisions reports that up to 70 percent of purchasing decisions are already complete by the time a prospect talks to a sales rep, because customers are researching products and solutions online.
  • Forrester Research reports that only 20% of sales reps show up to a meeting adequately prepared for the type of contextual dialogues that drive their buying decisions.
  • QStream reports that more than 33 percent of enterprise sales reps today—even those with extensive market and product training—arrive at sales calls unprepared or unable to apply the critical information and context needed to successfully sell into their markets.

Despite enormous amounts of time and money spent on sales kickoffs and training events, the “forgetting curve” theory promises that some 79 percent of new information will be forgotten within days and weeks. That means sales executives really don’t know what they don’t know about sales rep performance when reps are out on the road in their territories.

Because all of your strategy, product development, and market knowledge is ultimately brought to life for the customer by your sales people, preparing your “messengers” to live up to the expectations of buyers can certainly make or break your ability to get second meetings. More importantly, it can drive long-term revenue growth.


Adapting the sales process to this changing selling environment is the key to increased win rates and higher percentage of sales reps achieving quota, according to a CSO Insights 2013 study that segmented over 1,100 firms on their ability to adapt the way they sell to prospects/customers based upon changes in their marketplace. Those that were able to create more dynamic sales processes exceeded revenue expectations and had demonstrably higher win rates (55 percent) than those that didn’t.

How does your organization become one of the agile, adaptive groups whose results top the charts? The answer very literally may be in the palm of sales reps’ hands, and your own as managers.

Here are a few examples:

  • More than 20 randomized clinical trials conducted at Harvard have explored how the human brain acquires knowledge, loses it, and more importantly retains knowledge so that it lasts. Results show that by using a combination of interval reinforcement and active retrieval practices for delivering knowledge, sales organizations can effectively increase retention by up to 170 percent and durably change ingrained behaviors.

  • American Medical Systems (AMS), a medical device maker, found that sales rep recall of foundational information for sales success would decline in as little as two weeks following a sales meeting—and initiatives to boost recall such as post-event email quizzes were less than effective. By using a game-based, mobile approach to continual information reinforcement, AMS was able to drive its post-sales event mastery score from a baseline of 68 percent to upwards of 92 percent, with more than 96 percent engagement. A manager’s dashboard packaged information on individual sales rep mastery as well as that of regions or product teams, and provided it to managers on a weekly basis so they could personalize coaching proactively.

  • Intuitive Surgical did a three-way benchmark comparing information retention scores from those who attended the national sales meeting without ongoing reinforcement, those who attended and received one-on-one coaching with a subject matter expert, and those who received interval reinforcement via simple scenario-based Q&A challenges. The results were dramatic: the game-based approach delivered the same retention levels as access to a one-on-one coach, and far better retention than the training program alone upon retest—with far less investment of time, money and resources.

We task reps to build critical contextual-selling skills so they can sell at higher levels, yet we need to help them do this without taking time away from prospective customers, and by embracing their characteristic on the go, always in motion, innately competitive style.
By providing salespeople with mobile approaches, and making a game of it, the power to move the conversation forward is truly in the palm of their hands. 

About the Author
Duncan Lennox is CEO and co-founder of Qstream, which provides mobile sales enablement and analytics for driving high-performance teams. Prior to Qstream, he co-founded WBT Systems, developers of an award-winning e-learning platform used by millions of corporate professionals.
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