NOW AVAILABLE: CSO Insights 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study

When we released our 2017 World-Class Sales Practices Study, we noted the sobering fact that quota attainment was on a five-year decline and approaching an all-time low. Our newly released 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study tells a very different story: quota attainment (while still only 57%) has rebounded, and revenue plan attainment is up to a three-year high of 101%.

As Shakespeare famously warned though, all that glitters is not gold. Sales leaders should be cautious of reading too much into these metrics. Keep in mind that global GDP (calculated over 153 countries) increased 10% since our last World-Class study as well. When you dig beneath the lagging indicators, a less-shiny reality emerges.

At the same time that revenue-oriented metrics are going up, win rates, seller retention, effectiveness and depth of customer relationship are all flat or down. (click to tweet)

Increasing buyer expectations are applying pressure to the sales process while organizational gaps grow in both traditional (e.g., sales coaching) and new (e.g., sales analytics) focus areas. Sales organizations are finding a way to meet their goals using an unsustainable approach of expanding their coverage and taking advantage of positive markets.

Economies don’t thrive indefinitely, and sales leaders in this position will need to take a critical look at their sales systems — the strategies, processes and components that drive the way they sell.

So where does a sales leader start when it comes to transformation?

Every two years, CSO Insights conducts its World-Class Sales Practices Study to cull through the list of must-do organizational practices — everything from compensation planning to account management and more — in order to identify a short list of focus areas.

The CSO Insights Top 12 World-Class Sales Practices link to strong results in revenue plan attainment, quota attainment, win rates and attrition. (click to tweet)

The practices are organized by the major components of the CSO Insights/Miller Heiman Group sales system: Customer Engagement, Performance Support and Strategy Alignment.

Compared to previous years, we see some consistent mentions such as sales coaching, talent assessments and value messaging. We also found new entrants such as data & analytics strategy, alignment of operations, enablement and management. Old or new, the practices have several themes in common:

  • The customer is the anchor point. World-Class sales organizations use the customers’ path as the organizing principle of their sales system. The sales process steps, sequence and measures are derived from this path. The sales methodology — the how to — helps sellers execute on the sales process in a way that facilitates the buyer’s process. Sales and service interaction skills are the building blocks of execution.
  • The sales ecosystem is expanding. Many of these practices require alignment and formal collaboration among Sales, Marketing and Customer Service. Ultimately, the anchor for the sales system is the customer, whose experience starts before and continues after the sales process.
  • Sellers need aligned support. Many of the practices fell within the domain of the performance support team of sales operations, sales enablement and sales management. More is being asked of these functions than ever before. And while they strive for the same goals, they can easily get out of sync considering the pace at which they operate.
  • The CSO has broader remit. Historically, talent strategy and data & analytics strategy are the domain of HR and IT, respectively. In a World-Class sales organization, it is the top sales executive who owns these strategies to ensure that they meet the needs of the sales organization as well as the overall enterprise.

Only 9% of nearly 1,000 sales organizations met the criteria of a World-Class Sales Organization, excelling at all of the Top 12 World-Class Sales Practices. (click to tweet)

Sales leaders looking to refresh their sales system and compare themselves to this 9% can find the full list of 12 practices, along with recommendations for excelling at each, in the World-Class Sales Practices Study report.

Download the study here, and keep following our blog as we continue to break down our findings.


Questions to Ask

  • How aligned are your organization’s lagging indicators of revenue and quota attainment with leading indicators of win rate, retention and customer satisfaction?
  • How sustainable is your organization’s sales success in the event economic factors change?
  • Where are your organization’s strengths and gaps in the context of the sales system? How do you know?
  • Which of the Top 12 practices would create the most impact for your organization?
  • How well aligned is your organization’s sales system? How well executed is it?
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