Insights from CSO Insights 2014 Sales Performance Optimization Report.


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CSO Insights long awaited 2014 Sales Performance Optimization report arrived in my Inbox yesterday, packed with insights from over 1200 companies surveyed on the state of B2B sales. 

Section 5, “Measuring Sales and Marketing Effectiveness” is of strong interest me personally as is sales and marketing alignment, to my company WittyParrot.


The biggest barriers to sales effectiveness are in ranked order of importance:

  1. Lack of qualified leads
  2. Difficult competitive differentiation
  3. Sell cycle too long
  4. Close rates not high enough
  5. Ineffective selling process.

CSO Insights 2014 Sales effectiveness Barriers Chart


As in the past couple of years, these barriers point to the difficulties traditional B2B selling organizations are having in engaging self-directed buyers. 

Suppliers in 2014 are focused on capturing new name accounts to grow revenue, but there are many problems:

  • salespeople aren’t getting enough qualified leads,
  • are having significant difficulty in effectively conducting needs analysis to qualify opportunities,
  • are not able to effectively identify and access decision makers,
  • are struggling with competitive differentiation,
  • in a sales cycle that has lengthened, with more decision-makers involved.

In reflecting on the CSO report, I see a structural problem in the way our industry regards buyers. The problem this report highlights and what most B2B suppliers are struggling with is that buyers don’t want to play by our “selling rules” any more.

The yardstick for measurement of success and engagement in the CSO report is through the lens of the sales funnel in a sales process. I contend that we need to find new ways of measuring our performance against new buying behavior.

Buyers are mercurial and unpredictable and don’t want cold calls, they don’t want to be “managed through a sales process”, they don’t want to be targeted by programmed marketing campaigns and they don’t want to be bombarded with canned messages from somebody’s best guess at their persona.

I was encouraged to see in section 5 of the report, “that the primary objective of a company’s sales cycle is to support the client’s buying cycle”. “Sales and marketing teams conduct “interest development” to help the prospect start to “envision the problem.” The needs analysis stage helps the buyer define the problem. Education then aids them in beginning to envision the solution, and so on.” This is real progress!

However the model CSO Insights uses to map buying cycle and selling cycle is still focused on the sales funnel vs. actual buyer behavior as in the buying model below.

Universal Buying Process (IMPACT) from “Why Killer Products Dont Sell”


Perhaps we need to be adding a new set of sales and marketing performance metrics, to better analyze new buying behavior and our ability to convert and facilitate… since so much more of the buying process is the responsibility of marketing.

The metrics that come to mind are:

  • Social Media Reach
  • Website Visits via source
  • Visit to lead conversion
  • Lead to MQL
  • Lead to opportunity conversion
  • Leads Presented vs Engagement
  • MQL – Opportunity
  • Opportunity to close
  • Cost per lead
  • Engagement across the buying process
  • Cost of customer acquisition
  • Customer Lifetime value
  • Customer Happiness
  • Churn Rate

If you haven’t read it yet, you may find our eBook on Building Highly Responsive Teams to be relevant to this discussion.

If you would like, you can download a sample of the CSO Insights report here

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mark Gibson
Mark Gibson has been at the forefront of developing sales and marketing tools that create clarity in messaging value for 30 years. As a consultant he is now engaged in helping sales, marketing and enablement teams to get clear about value creation. Clarity attracts inbound leads, clarity converts visitors into leads and leads into customers, clarity builds mindshare, clarity engages customers, clarity differentiates value, clarity helps onboard new hires clarity helps raise funds, clarity + execution win markets.


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