How to Achieve Best-in-Class Sales Performance

What's it mean to be a Best-in-Class sales performance organization?

Research performed for the Sales Excellence Report surfaced the data that answered this question.

A survey was used to capture sales results, including revenue growth, revenue plan attainment, salesforce quota attainment and the opportunity win rate. Based on these results, respondents were then categorized into one of three performance archetypes:

  • Best-in-Class for the top 15%
  • Medians for the middle 50%
  • Laggards for the lower 35%

The survey also captured data related to the strategies, processes and technologies used by respondents. This data was then correlated with revenue results and the performance archetypes. This allowed us to understand what methods most impacted sales results, and what the Best in Class cohort did differently than their lower performing peers.

What Best-in-Class Sales Performance Looks Like

The following data findings show how best in class sales performance is measured.

Sales Growth

Based on the most recent three-year average, the Best in Class cohort achieved an average 14.1 percent annual sales growth rate. That was 209 percent higher than the combined average of the Laggards and Medians.

Sales Growth Rate

Revenue Plan Attainment

Meeting expectations of management, shareholders and other stakeholders starts with achieving the annual revenue target.

The below column chart shows the percentage of companies that achieved their annual revenue plan. It also shows that the best in class archetype achieved 43% higher results than the combined average of the Laggards and Medians.

Revenue Plan Attainment

Sales Force Quota Attainment

Sales results built on individual heroics are neither consistent nor scalable. Significant and sustained company growth is the result of high-performance teams.

Below are the results showing what percentage of the salesforce achieved its annual quota.

Salesforce Quota Attainment

The data surfaced two additional findings related to salesforce quota attainment.

First, those sellers that applied the three tools of a predictable sales process, sale methodology and CRM software achieved the highest quota performance results.

Second, quota achievement highly correlated with staff tenure.

Opportunity Win Rate

The sale opportunity win rate shows the percentage of opportunities won. It's an efficiency metric that measures closures relative to pursuits.

It's a powerful measure because increasing conversions improves short term revenues and creates a multiplier impact to long term revenue growth. Even small improvements to the sale win rate deliver large increases to top line revenue.

Sale Win Rate

Increasing the sale win rate delivers significant and sustainable revenue growth. It is also more effective and less costly than just playing the numbers game of increasing the volume of selling pursuits.

The Methods That Most Impact Results

Now that you know what best-in-class sales performance looks like, the next question may be how to achieve these results at your company.

The research answered that question by analyzing data that measured corporate strategies, operational processes and technology utilization. That analysis identified 9 programs that delivered the biggest financial impact and most separated the Best-In-Class archetype from their peers.

These 9 growth programs are referred to as evidence-based best practices and shown below.

1

Sale Methodologies

A sale methodology shifts your selling strategy from what you sell to how you sell. It defines the specific methods and actions that most influence sales outcomes.

Respondents with optimized sale methodologies achieved an average 11 percent higher sales win rate than peers with less formal selling methods. They were also 1.9 times more likely to achieve year over year revenue growth and 1.8 times more likely to achieve their annual revenue target.

2

Predictable Selling Process

The research found overwhelming evidence that sellers who use structured sales processes outperform those who don't.

Sellers that applied prescribed and predictable selling processes achieved an average 10 percent higher win rate than those who did not. They were also 53 percent more likely to achieve their quota.

Optimized and repeatable processes accelerate seller onboarding time, improve productivity, increase selling velocity, lower cost per customer acquisition, improve forecasting and most importantly, increase sales conversions.

3

Consistent Selling Execution

The Best in Class cohort applied more defined and consistent processes throughout their organization. For example, they used Sales Playbooks and guided selling recommendations about twice as much as their lower performing peers. They also performed process reengineering about twice as frequently as all others.

4

Strategic Account Management

Strategic Account Management is a systemic approach to increase customer share and profits over extended periods. This selling method uses strategic account plans as the blueprints for planned customer expansion and future sales.

The research found that only 29 percent of companies adopted formal or defined Strategic Account Management programs. But those adopters achieved 24 percent higher revenue growth with existing customers than sellers without these programs.

5

Annual Sales Plans

The annual sales plan defines the specific actions to achieve the company revenue goal. For most companies, it is a roadmap that plots the most direct route to achieving the annual revenue target.

The data found that almost all respondents created annual sales plans. However, for most laggards and medians it was a one-and-done exercise. That was different than the Best-in-Class who advised they used the plan as an active operating tool throughout the period.

For example, the plan was integrated with their CRM system and used to measure progress, identify variances in real-time and implement swift course corrections as needed.

6

Opportunity Win Plans

The average sale opportunity win rate was 49 percent. The average opportunity win rate for sellers that consistently used win plans was 55 percent.

The research found that only 21 percent of sellers consistently develop sale opportunity win plans. However, that minority achieved a 6 percent higher win rate and 10 percent higher quota attainment. The Best-in-Class cohort consistently prepared win plans almost 4 times more frequently than Medians.

7

Strategic Pricing

While only 16 percent of participants routinely calculated price elasticity for a majority of their products or services, 84 percent of that group were Best-in-Class leaders.

The combination of a formal price strategy and active price optimization program increased revenue growth 2 to 8 percent. Companies with active price optimization programs were 40 percent more likely to achieve year over year revenue growth.

8

Coaching

Salesperson coaching was the single greatest contributing factor to improved staff productivity. However, not all coaching programs delivered a positive ROI. Only 23 percent of participants with informal and irregular coaching reported a positive ROI. But that figure more than tripled to 78 percent for participants that brought structure and regular cadence to their programs.

9

Business Intelligence

Pretty much all respondents used some form of analytics. But while most used static reporting built on historical data, the Best-in-Class more often shifted their information from hindsight to foresight. They were 3 times more likely to use interactive dashboards, 3.5 times more likely to use predictive analytics and 4 times more likely to integrate AI into their decision support.

Best Practices for Sales Transformation

B2B sales consultants have proven many times over that successfully replicating any one of these best practices will deliver an incremental benefit. That may be sufficient for some.

Others may seek transformation to create order of magnitude improvements and deliver more significant and sustained company growth.

That requires a more holistic approach, which can be achieved by replicating a mix of the evidence-based best practices.

The research was conclusive in showing the leaders excelled in at least five, and on average, 7 to 8 of the nine best practices.

Sales Performance Best Practices

Lets Get Growing

Sales performance recommendations without supporting data are just opinions. The 9 evidence-based best practices herein are born from field research and show what the top performing sellers do differently than their lower performing peers.

When you start with data-driven findings, learn from those that have achieved the highest success and replicate their methods to repeat that performance, you eliminate guesswork and pursue the straightest and shortest route to targeted outcomes.

One more thing.

Most survey participants indicated they adopted all or most of the 9 best practices.

However, survey questions that analyzed operational processes suggested otherwise. The research found there is a big difference between adoption, which is often a casual participation and dedication which creates expertise.

Dedication requires focused programs with executive sponsorship, budgeted resources, supporting technology, performance analytics and continuous process improvements. Dedication advances from being a generalist to becoming a specialist.

And when the criteria for dedicated programs were considered, only the Best in Class archetype engaged in 7 or more of the best practices.