What does industry data say about sales reps’ productivity in B2B sales in early 2022?
In recent years, the B2B sales landscape has changed more rapidly and profoundly than ever before. How has the shift towards digital-first and omnichannel communication affected the work methods, organization, and sales reps’ productivity? Everywhere there is talk of Sales 4.0, but to what extent is this already reality?
We wanted to know to what degree sales employees have already turned away from intuitive selling in favor of data-driven selling. That's why we asked German B2B sales teams from the SaaS industry how they organize themselves on a daily basis and which tools they use.
What challenges do teams face at the beginning of 2022 and how can these reduce sales reps’ productivity? Which processes should be optimized and how?
Which Tools do B2B Sales Reps Use to Improve Productivity?
CRM: The Most Important Tool in a SaaS Sales Rep’s Toolbox
All of the sales employees surveyed use CRMs such as Hubspot and Pipedrive to keep tabs on all of their deal data at all times. In addition, all survey participants use calendar and meeting tools. Only half use other tools.
Some of the B2B sales employees surveyed stated they have many tools open at the same time and switch back and forth between them frequently. Depending on the company's sales processes, others prefer to work with fewer tools to keep the process as clear and structured as possible.
What Do Sales Reps Spend The Most Time On?
1. Sales Activities
B2B sales reps place the highest priority on their day-to-day sales activities. Calls, demos and follow-ups are most important to them because they move things forward within the sales cycle. 90 percent of respondents say it's a good day for them when they reach their target numbers of calls and demos.
2. Prioritizing and Gathering Information
The second most important activities in everyday sales are:
Salespeople are well aware that they need to invest enough time in their own preparation to be successful with calls and demos. Additionally, sales reps are also looking for strategies to increase productivity and efficiency fit to their way of working.
3. Documentation and Data Management
Sales reps are least likely to want to invest time in entering data into CRM, even though they know that documentation and data management are very important. But with the tools used, above all CRM, it’s often only possible to maintain data on sales processes manually in a rather complicated way - something that sales reps end up spending a lot of time on. Even if only the data record for a single deal is to be kept up-to-date, this tedious step is still necessary. In addition, many functions within CRM systems are never used and only represent a burden for sales employees. One such example is when follow-up tasks have to be created.
Challenges to Sales Reps’ Productivity
Inadequate Data Visualization
Sales reps have thus far been overwhelmed by their most important tool, the CRM. One of the biggest hurdles to increasing sales reps' productivity is the lack of a clear, concise visualization of their deals' individual sales cycles in CRM. All survey respondents say they are used to unmanageable data visualization because there is simply no other alternative. Many popular tools are slowly starting to focus on a better user experience and user interface (UX/UI), but there is still a lot of catching up to do.
Organizing the huge amount of data in CRMs such as Hubspot and Pipedrive properly, keeping a constant eye on this data and interpreting it takes a lot of time. This is time that salespeople don't have, time during which business can't be driven and deals can't be closed.
Sales reps are simply inundated with a tremendous amount of data that is not presented in alignment with their focus goals.
Prioritizing and Tracking Deals is Close to Impossible
What kind of seller are you? Dealcode’s Sales Personality Test will help you to better understand your personal selling behavior and identify strengths and weaknesses.
Customer Preferences are Difficult to Predict
In order to win deals as quickly as possible, sales employees must be able to build trust with their potential customers with ease. 7 out of 10 of the respondents from B2B sales listed knowledge about the personality of potential customers as a challenge.
There is always an ideal approach to closing a sale for each individual customer based on their communication preferences. However, this also takes time and experience to be able to accurately recognize and act on.
What Should be Optimized to Increase Sales Reps’ Productivity?
To improve sales reps’ productivity, data-driven selling is key. This requires the following organizational improvements, among others:
Automated Data Collection Boosts Productivity of Sales Reps
Although they would like to do so, most sales teams hardly use the data available to them. The survey of sales employees showed that manually entering data into CRMs is seen as an unwelcome time-consuming task.
However, it is precisely this kind of data that is particularly well suited for automated collection. Only by collecting the activity data of a deal can it be used strategically for sales success - for example, by increasing the productivity of sales reps.
Clear and Concise Visualization Limited to the Most Relevant Data
CRMs do not focus on the essential operational functions in the sales process. Too much information and KPIs overwhelm sales reps in everyday SaaS sales. Sales reps only want to see the data that is most important to them and their business. This requires visualizations with reduced complexity that only display the most important key figures for individual deals, for example:
Which deals in the Pipeline are considered deals at risk and are close to being lost?
What is the winning formula for individual deals, i.e. which activities make sense when?
Important for sales managers: How is the pipeline health? What is the revenue forecast/sales forecast?
Concrete Recommendations on Meaningful Sales Activities
Data-driven selling is less about capturing big picture data and more about specific actions.
1. A Clearly Arranged To-Do List
Sales reps want to see at a glance which activity is next in order to move quickly through the sales cycle. Sales teams have yet to find automated guidance on winning formulas for individual sales cycles in CRMs like Hubspot or Pipedrive.
2. Deal Guidance
Guidelines which can be used to increase the productivity of B2B sales reps can be provided by AI-powered sales software. Industry experts also refer to this as AI-Guided Selling Software. The AI-Guided Selling Software’s Sales Rep Activity Dashboard clearly depicts which specific actions are required next as part of the winning algorithm for a particular deal.
Information About Customers Help Close Deals Faster
What makes my customer tick? Reading people is a fundamental skill in sales. In digital-first sales, this is becoming increasingly difficult. Sales reps are grateful for each and every helpful hint about the personalities, goals, and needs of their customers. They want to be able to quickly identify which mix of activities is best in order to quickly close a sale.
By analyzing the data from the customer journey, the AI-Guided Selling Software has its own calculation model for win probabilities for each customer. For example, it recognizes when a potential buyer prefers emails to phone calls. Corresponding recommendations for an optimized, personalized customer approach increase the productivity of sales reps.
In addition, AI-Guided Selling Software offers functions in the area of marketing intelligence. These provide the sales manager with as much detailed information about their customer as possible. For example, if the customer has just received financing and now needs to scale, a quick follow-up at the right time may help close the deal quickly.
Automated Prioritization of the Most Important Deals
Which deals are worth focusing on? Sales reps want to prioritize, but don't have time to analyze all the data. They usually focus their attention on whatever comes in next. Sales reps thus only see the deals they are currently working on. In a typical sales organization, that's only about 20 percent of all deals in the pipeline. Sales reps thus only see the deals they are currently working on. In a typical sales organization, that's about 20 percent of all the deals in the pipeline.
AI-Guided Selling Software analyzes the remaining 80 percent of the sales pipeline and works with a scoring system. Sales reps can see at a glance which deals to watch are in the sales pipeline in the Sales Rep Activity Dashboard. By focusing on the deals with a particularly high chance of winning, sales reps can also quickly and easily increase their productivity.
Improved UX/UI With a Focus on the Essentials
In B2B and SaaS sales, the user experience and interface design (UX/UI) of many tools still leave much to be desired. The sales teams surveyed said they were overwhelmed by the visualization of data. Sales reps still lack a clear overview of the essentials.
Managers only want to see the most important data on individual deals. The Sales Rep Activity Dashboard of Dealcode's AI-Guided Selling software focuses precisely on this data, i.e. the data which is most important to sales reps.
Reminder Function Increases Sales Reps’ Productivity
If the probability of winning a deal drops, sales reps have to act quickly to avoid losing the deal. The problem is that it is almost impossible to keep track of all ongoing deals.
In data-driven B2B sales, salespeople receive automatic reminders about all important actions in the sales cycle. Sales reps no longer have to worry about unknowingly losing important deals because they forget to follow up at the right moment. This reduces stress and the potential overload of sales reps.
Instead of wasting their time on scheduling follow-ups and monitoring their deals, salespeople can focus on the most important sales activities.
Key Findings on the Productivity of Sales Reps
The surveys show that B2B sales teams in Germany are still a long way from data-driven selling in the sense of Sales 4.0, even in high-tech industries such as SaaS. Current organization of B2B sales still lacks predictive analytics through machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI).
The Main Problems and Challenges Include:
The lack of automated processes for comprehensive data analysis
The tools used overwhelm users with cluttered visualizations and do not meet the needs of their users.
Without AI-powered sales software, there is no predictive analytics on risk levels, win probabilities, and win formulas of deals in the pipeline.
To efficiently increase sales reps’ productivity and stay competitive in B2B Sales 4.0, sales teams can no longer ignore the potential of AI.
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