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Proven strategies to break through sales challenges

Getting sales right at an organizational level isn't easy. You’ve got to be able to zoom out and understand your broad customer base, yet retain your ability to zoom in and interact with individual customers. You've got to hire talented sales personnel, and then work tirelessly to ensure they're aligned, engaged and well-trained. There are hurdles all the way down the funnel.

For organizations looking to exceed their inbound sales targets and foster customer loyalty, there is value in first developing an understanding of the common challenges facing sales teams. Let's take a look at those challenges, and some corresponding sales growth strategies that help drive results.

Four common sales growth challenges

The following four hurdles are common sales challenges for organizations big and small:

  1. Under-trained agents: Hiring well is just the beginning. Too often, organizations bring in great talent and fail to take a thoughtful, ongoing approach to training. This is a real problem — according to G2, 84% of sales training is forgotten in the first three months. Worse still, those you don't train effectively are more likely to leave, putting a dent in your bottom line. A staggering 60% of sales agents will leave within four years if they don't feel that they're learning and growing, per G2.

  2. A generic approach to customer interactions: TELUS International survey findings show that 43% of consumers say interactions should become more personalized. And while that rings true of all customer touchpoints, it is particularly resonant in sales. Organizations must step beyond broad customer personas and a one-size-fits-all approach, and take the time to understand each customer's needs before suggesting additional products or services.

  3. Long buying cycles: Buying cycles can be long, and there is a suggestion that they may be getting longer. Since the onset of COVID-19, 57% of vendors surveyed by Statista reported that their sales cycles have lengthened. The longer the cycle, the more resources you're committing and the higher the stakes become.

  4. Customer indecision: On a recent episode of TELUS International Studios, bestselling author Matt Dixon spoke at length about customer indecision — a tendency to delay commitment to a purchase decision as a means of risk aversion. A B2C customer may delay spending their hard-earned cash to mull things over. A B2B customer may pause at the thought of committing their name and reputation to a purchase contract. According to Dixon, 87% of sales opportunities contain moderate or high levels of customer indecision and "as indecision increases, win rates plummet."

How to overcome sales growth challenges

The good news is that these common sales challenges are not insurmountable. By applying the following strategies — and with the help of a partner that has experience helping organizations design, build and deliver effectives sales programs — you can persevere.

Harness the JOLT effect:

Dixon's latest book, The JOLT Effect: How High Performers Overcome Customer Indecision, offers a set of four behaviors that can help you drive beyond customer indecision and shorten long buying cycles. In this case, "jolt" is not just a sensation, but also an acronym:

  • Judge the level of indecision: An agent should practice active listening, ask good questions and assess whether the buyer will be able to make a decision in a reasonable amount of time. If you determine that the customer won't be able to do so, pivot.
  • Offer your recommendation: If an agent truly understands a customer, they should be able to provide a specific recommendation based on the customer's needs. Directing a customer to a solution page with countless options only breeds indecision. Take the time to explain how the recommendation addresses specific items or pain points mentioned by the customer.
  • Limit the exploration: In an honest attempt to make sound decisions, indecisive customers are prone to embarking on seemingly endless research missions. This exploration lengthens the buying cycle. Dixon explains, "And so we've got to put a limit to their exploration, and the way we do that is we've got to earn the trust," before adding the agent must show "that we can guide them through this learning journey and that they don't need to consume all the content because we've already done that. And we are their trusted advisor."
  • Take risk off the table: There's no such thing as a sure thing, but a salesperson can certainly minimize risk for a potential customer. Effective strategies include offering up resources that help the customer make the most of their purchase, and creative contract structuring that calms fears and provides a safety net if things don't go according to plan.

Introduce effective learning and development for agents:

Agents can be retained longer, and sales win rates can get better, with proper agent training. In fact, G2 found that effective coaching can lift win rates by 29%. It's all about raising the standard among your agents: Dixon's research indicates that when faced with moderately indecisive customers, high performers convert 57% of deals, whereas average performers win only 26%.

So what does an effective learning and development program look like? Beyond creating immersion for agents and familiarizing them with the business and the customer right away, an effective program should be ongoing. It's simple when you think about it: For continuous improvement, you need continuous training.

More than that, the program should provide training content in varying mediums to account for different learning styles. That means utilizing text, visuals, videos, audio and even quizzes. What's more, training material should be accessible at all times, which calls for easily-searchable knowledge bases that encourage agents to find answers to their questions, or brush up on past material.

Take a personalized approach:

When he was a regional sales manager at LinkedIn, Kwesi Graves spoke to Hubspot about adopting a buyer-first mentality in sales. The approach aims to build trust, and that trust comes from understanding. Graves explains, "I always encourage my team to take off their [sales] hats and put on their [customer] hats until they understand them," and continues, "until we really understand [the customer], we shouldn't be selling to them in the first place."

By understanding the individual customer, an agent can personalize recommendations and fine-tune their positioning. Besides active listening while interacting with customers, personalization can be enhanced with data. Make the data that shows the customer's past behaviors and purchases accessible to your agents to highlight opportunities.

Realizing your sales growth potential

Whether it's training, technology or talented personnel that you're seeking, TELUS International has the global scale and earned experience reinventing sales programs to deliver results.

Working with one of our Fortune 500 clients, we applied these sales growth strategies to provide inbound sales support via chat, assisting customers and converting shoppers into buyers. The program has generated $4.5 billion in revenue since inception, and has grown from a program of 50 team members to a team of 300. For another client, we helped to maximize customer lifecycle by providing order assistance and customer support, resulting in a $316 increase in average order value.

Check out the podcast episode for more expert sales tips from Matt Dixon, and reach out to our experts to discover how we can help you break through sales challenges.

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