Salesforce Survey Shows Customer Experience Now Job No. 1

Priorities of sales teams are facing mandates for change, thanks to intense new competition online among vendors of all types.

Once upon a time, sales were simply a matter of putting the best product out there and allowing it to sell itself. Selling is now all about spoiling the customer tremendously first.

In fact, as more and more sales move online, if a salesperson does not make a transaction cushy and attractive enough online for a potential customer, that customer is becoming more and more likely to drift off and find another product to buy from a competitor.

This is but one of the key takeaways released Nov. 14 in Salesforce.com's second annual State of Sales research report, which surveyed more than 3,100 global sales leaders (an excellent sampling, by the way) to identify the priorities, trends and technology making an impact on sales teams.

The report found that sales teams now need to prioritize as follows, in order: 1) provide an optimal customer experience; 2) use cross-team collaboration tools; and 3) and utilize artificial intelligence to optimize their sales performance.

Quantifies 'High-Performing' vs. 'Low-Performing' Teams

You can download the State of Sales report here. It is free of charge, but registration is required.

"On a high level, we broke this down into what we think about as 'high-performing' teams, middle-performing teams and lower-performing teams," Salesforce Vice President of Product and SMB Marketing Sean Alpert told eWEEK.

"Customer experience is now the top KPI (key performance indicator) used to measure success. Sales teams are changing their focus to be on customers, rather than just on process automation. That was a change from the past year to this year. Influencing sales teams think differently about how they quantify success. They're now more focused on things like net promoter score and customer satisfaction than they have in the past."

Customers now have much more information ahead of a potential sale, are more engaged and connected and have increased expectations of the sales teams with whom they interact. In fact, the State of Sales research report found that sales teams that are prioritizing the items noted above are, in fact, optimizing their sales performance and closing more deals faster.

Relevant Takeaways

Key metrics from the report include:

--Among high-performing sales teams that use intelligent selling capabilities, 40 percent have experienced an increase in pipeline generation and 43 percent have experienced an increase in deal close rate.

--Predictive selling is the future of customer experience, with 76 percent of sales teams saying they are focused on providing proactive service and 78 percent focused on anticipating customer needs.

--During the next three years, adoption of sales intelligence capabilities is expected to increase by triple digits. Specifically, predictive intelligence adoption is expected to increase 118 percent, lead-to-cash process automation adoption is expected to increase 115 percent and artificial intelligence adoption is expected to increase 139 percent.

Customers today expect their sales reps to do more than just make a quick sale; they expect them to learn, understand and anticipate their needs. The top teams are prioritizing these customer expectations by delivering a personalized experience that supercharges sales and retains customers.

--Seventy-six percent of consumers say it is absolutely critical or very important to know they are interacting with a salesperson who is focused on helping them achieve their needs, not making a quick sale.

--Fifty-one percent of high-performing sales teams say that increasing customer retention through deeper relationships is one of their most important sales objectives.

--Seventy percent of sales teams have become more focused on providing customers with real-time responses and feedback as a result of changing customer expectations.

Administrative Tasks Still an Issue

While sales teams evolve to become more customer-centric, the day-to-day sales process is still plagued by time-consuming administrative tasks, siloed customer information and outdated management systems. The research notes that top sales teams are turning to new-gen tools to drive efficiency and boost sales.

--Sales reps aren’t spending most of their time selling. In fact, sales reps spend an average of 64 percent of their time on non-selling tasks, including administrative and service related tasks, traveling and training.

--Sixty-four percent of consumers say they expect companies to interact with them in real time, and 80 percent say a company responding immediately when they reach out for help influences their loyalty. However, only 29 percent of sales teams are currently providing a mobile app to their salespeople.

--Mobile technology is a critically important element of the modern sales toolkit. 53 percent of the top sales reps use mobile to connect with their customers on the go.

Sales Teams Need to Break Out of Silos

Sales organizations can no longer exist in silos. In order to successfully deliver and track customer experience, the report indicated, sales must connect across different departments, channels and partners in order to have complete visibility into the customer journey.

--Having a single-view of the customer is critical to the success of cross-collaboration. Among high-performing teams, 79 percent rank their ability to get a single view of the customer as outstanding or very good.

--A truly connected sales process extends beyond internal collaboration and requires a thriving partner ecosystem. 76 percent of high-performing sales teams rate their partner collaboration capabilities as outstanding or very good.

--Top sales teams use self-service channels to empower sales reps to meet customers’ real-time expectations. 75 percent of top teams use knowledge bases and 69 percent use online communities to successfully connect with their customers.

You can download a full copy of the free Salesforce.com State of Sales research report here. Registration is required.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he...