How to Achieve Best in Class Sales Results in the Professional Services Industry
- Industry research is used to surface and replicate the most effective revenue growth strategies and sales methods used by the Best-in-Class Professional Service Organizations (e.g., the top 15%).
- When you replicate the sales methods that most drive revenue growth for the industry's top performers' you can realize similar results.
- Three sales best practices stood above all others when research performed for the Sales Excellence Report was filtered for the professional services industry.
How to Achieve Best in Class Sales Results in the Services Industry
We filtered the data and insights from the most recent Growth Strategies Report and Sales Excellence Report to better understand which sales strategies and best practices delivered the biggest revenue impact for the professional service industry's top performers.
Sales organizations were ranked by revenue achievement (attaining forecasted target), year over year revenue growth, salesforce quota achievement and sales win rate. The Best-in-Class sales performers scored in top 15 percent.
Here are the top three sales best practices they most frequently used along with insights so that others can pursue a journey to Best-in-Class sales performance. These methods fold into the Johnny Grow Professional Services Growth Formula in order to shift research insights into prescriptive actions.
Brand, salesperson, solution and qualifications are the four most influential factors in winning new client acquisitions – and each is proactively positioned by the top sellers.
Unlike sellers of products, services salespeople are selling an intangible solution that cannot be physically inspected, so buyers instead inspect both the company and the seller. Successful sellers position the company brand and unique value proposition early and often to aid the buyers' evaluation and gain competitive positioning.
The research also shows that the Best-in-Class salespeople are staunch advocates of sale methodologies and predictable sales processes. Other research published in Harvard Business Review provides similar findings, and advises, "There was an 18% difference in revenue growth between companies that defined a formal sales process and companies that didn't."
Service sellers are most often selling a sophisticated solution to a buying committee over a lengthy sales period. Navigating the goals, concerns and decision criteria of multiple departments, lines of business, procurement and legal takes proactive coordination that is best facilitated with a proven sales process.
The best sellers' approach solutioning from two perspectives. First, they disavow generic solutions and directly align their core competencies to uniquely solve customer problems. Second, they know the buyers' final decision-making criteria shifts to risk reduction, so they employ references, client case stories, contractual commitments and other techniques to increase buyer confidence and get the deal over the finish line.
Sales Win Rate
The top producers achieved a 57 percent win rate, sometimes called the close rate. That's 9 points above the average of 48 percent.
Unlike the prior seller capabilities which are salesperson tasks positioned to the buyer, improving the sales win rate is an internal effort that requires a team approach. It's important that marketing source and deliver qualified leads, that sales managers provide coaching and that salespeople collaborate with colleagues and subject matter experts in the solutioning.
Services salespeople are generally managing a smaller volume of high value sale opportunities. That means a small change in the sales win rate can have a large revenue impact.
Sales win rates grow by double digits when the sellers sales process aligns with the buyers purchase process, the sale methodology shifts from what you sell to how you sell, and the two combine to proactively position sellers with tactics and assets that respond to each buyer objective, requirement or objection.
Much more so than other industries, services growth is based on expanding business with existing clients. The research shows that prior project success and customer relationships are the two most influential factors in winning repeat business.
Drilling down on the research shows the customer strategies used by the top performers to grow customer relationships. The top two strategies, which overlap but are distinct, and deliver unique benefits, are Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and customer engagement.
The two biggest mistakes with CRM are believing that CRM is software and using the software as a substitute for strategy or in vacuum without strategy. CRM is a business strategy to grow mutually beneficial and profitable customer relationships, and that strategy is enabled with CRM software. The software is critical but by itself is insufficient to grow customer relationships.
The best way to advance CRM from a tactical transaction system to a tool that helps grow customer relationships is to start with a CRM strategy. In fact, the Sales Excellence research found that professional service leaders were 2 times more likely to have a CRM strategy that was documented, measured and continuously improved.
The data also shows a direct correlation between customer engagement and customer share. Increasing the right customer engagement will grow customer share. The research reveals that the four most powerful factors in creating successful client engagement are maintaining a 360-degree customer view, using the data in that customer view to deliver relevant and personalized messaging, maintaining a consistent frequency of communication, and engaging on the client's preferred channel.
Clients expect their providers to know them, personally and professionally. The 360 degree customer view is an essential first step and should centralize demographic, transactional, behavioral and social data to institutionalize this knowledge and leverage it for marketing, sales and customer service processes.