Only One-Quarter of Surveyed Firms Report Their Salesperson Development Efforts Can Keep Pace with Rate of Change


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Survey from The Sales Management Association and Qstream Highlights Challenges of Addressing the Pace of Change Large Firms Experience

BURLINGTON, MA (April 19, 2017) – Sales forces are change-intensive organizations that commonly face shifting market demands and buyer preferences. This reality is underscored in new research presented by Qstream and the Sales Management Association (SMA), in which a majority of firms (72%) stated their organizations experience annual change that warrants new or additional salesperson development. This research also lays bare a significant challenge large sales organizations face: only 25% reported that their salesperson development efforts are sufficiently agile to address change.

With highly complex and consultative selling environments, each new shift represents a need to change sales messaging, sales performance expectations and, at times, a need to recast fundamental assumptions of how salespeople deliver value to customers. To achieve success, organizations need to develop salespeople who can easily acquire new knowledge and skills, and quickly adapt to new circumstances.

Impact of Effective Salesperson Development

Firms with effective salesperson development initiatives realize advantages in multiple salesforce metrics. The research correlated effective salesperson development efforts with:

  • 23% improvement in sales objective achievement rates
  • 54% improvement in new hire success rates
  • 19% improvement in new hire time-to-productivity (a ramp time reduction of 2.2 months per salesperson)

Desire to Increase Field Development

The survey showed an uptick in interest from sales leadership in increasing their field coaching, with respondents stating their ideal distribution of sales development as 42% field based, up from the current 32%. Larger firms (those with 200+ directly-employed salespeople) deliver a significantly greater portion of their training and development online and in the classroom, delivering just 25% through in-the-field development efforts, while firms with fewer salespeople (43-200) allocate at least 37% to in-the-field activities, underscoring the challenges of scaling field coaching efforts.

“The challenges of scaling a coaching program across a distributed sales force can seem daunting but those companies that employ a data-driven approach can alleviate many common objections,” said Duncan Lennox, CEO and co-chair of Qstream. “A data-driven approach can provide managers valuable insights into the real-time capabilities of their reps as they relate to defined sales competencies. This ensures managers can give each rep the coaching they need to succeed in the time they have available, rather than wasting time on coaching a competency that the rep has already mastered.”

Development Triggers

The most common triggers for development are onboarding new hires (75%) and annual sales meetings (53%), closely followed by product launches or new service offerings (51%).

Competitive changes are not a significant trigger, with only 9% of respondents indicating development around a competitive launch and 8% around a new competitive entrant.

Where Salesperson Development is Successful – and Where It’s Lagging

The research included importance and effectiveness ratings by topic. Landing under most important and effective:

  • New technology use/introduction (e.g. CRM)
  • Market/industry knowledge

Topics considered highly important but executed with relatively low effectiveness:

  • Developing and/or proposing customer-specific solutions
  • Prospecting, developing new business opportunities
  • Onboarding new salespeople
  • Communicating brand/value proposition

About the Research

The Sales Management Association, the only global, cross-industry professional organization for sales operations and sales management, developed the survey and recruited participants from membership and a broader audience of sales managers and sales operations professionals. This research represents summarized data from 96 participating firms, directly employing more than 125,000 sales professionals. Respondent firms represented a cross-industry assortment of B-to-B sales organizations with a median value of 100 salespeople, and 14 managers, per firm. Data was collected between June and November 2016.

About Qstream
Qstream’s sales capabilities platform is used by leading brands in technology, financial services and life sciences, including 14 of the world’s top 15 pharmaceutical companies, to manage the effectiveness of their sales teams and front-line managers at scale. Qstream’s scientific approach has been validated in more than 20 randomized control trials to boost performance and durably change behaviors in just minutes a day using any mobile device. To learn more, visit, follow us @Qstream or like us at

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