Sales Effectiveness – IDC and CEB Draw Conflicting Conclusions


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The latest IDC Study says that of the customers who changed vendors last year, 65% did so because they either had a poor relationship with their vendor or a better relationship with the new vendor. One of their conclusions is that companies need to do a better job teaching their salespeople how to develop relationship building skills, especially in the C-Level.

The latest Corporate Executive Board study starts out with this headline: “Most companies are betting that reps who focus on building stronger customer relationships will rebuild sales. They’re wrong—here’s why.”

So why are these two studies coming to two different conclusions?

If we look inside the CEB study, they polled 450 first line sales managers and asked them to assess their salespeople in 44 different areas. There are three huge problems with this:

  1. 44 is far too large a number;
  2. Most first line sales managers don’t possess the ability to recognize what “good” is supposed to look like because good on their team could be the equivalent of poor on any other team;
  3. Objective Management Group’s data on more than 100,000 sales managers reveals that 52% of all first line sales managers shouldn’t even be in the role and only 7% are elite. How can we place any value on a study that doesn’t limit its participation to the top 7%?

The IDC study fared no better. They polled customers who then rated salespeople in various areas. How many customers are aware of how the salespeople performed compared to sales expectations? It was more likely that they rated salespeople in areas like responsiveness, relationships, attention to detail, ability to provide lowest prices and knowledge. These aren’t sales competencies, they’re professional competencies and they come with an agenda.

Both studies are really nothing more than surveys and surveys are only as good as the design, criteria, objectivity and demographic of the audience being surveyed.

Do companies need to develop their salespeople in the area of relationship building skills? Yes, of course. Our data shows that 74% of the 500,000 salespeople we have assessed are not as effective as they need to be in that area. But relationship building skills alone won’t get the job done!

Companies must also develop their sales team’s selling skills, formalize and optimize their sales processes and significantly develop and improve their sales management skills.

And even more important than all of that? You absolutely must have the right salespeople in the right roles and nobody can survey their way to those important decisions! You must evaluate your sales force to determine whether you have the right people, whether they can execute your strategies, whether they can sell the way one must sell to be effective in this new economy, to know how much better they can become, what it will take to get them there and how long before they’ll arrive. Listen to me discuss the reasons to conduct a sales force evaluation.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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