Studies show B2B sales reps are out of sync with buyers

7 minute read

Team Qvidian

by Bruce Scheer

According to Miller Heiman Group, only 40% of sales organisations clearly understand a customer’s issues before proposing a solution. Additionally, according to Qvidian, 90% of selling content is never used in selling, and 58% of sales pipeline ends up in “no decision” or stalled deals because sales have not presented value effectively.


That’s 3 strikes against sales effectiveness. These studies highlight the ugly fact that sales reps:

  • Don’t understand the buyer’s world and associated needs
  • Aren’t using the selling content provided
  • Don’t know how to communicate real value to the buyer

Whose fault is it… the sellers? They often get the blame, don’t hit their quota (only 63% of sales reps do), and are given their marching papers. Might sound strange, but I think the blame (and opportunity) should center on the marketing function, before it’s even time to go to market.

Why does this go-to-market sales performance problem exist?

Because marketing isn’t taking the time to position the solutions that they want to go to market with – and make sure that they are in tune with the value prospects want. In fact, one of my firm’s partners, Lawson Abinanti from Messages That Matter, completed a study that shows that 57% of technology and software marketers don’t have a formal process for positioning. 53% of the participants admitted that they don’t think they do enough research during the positioning process and 45% don’t think they spend enough time on positioning. And, as a result, there’s me too positioning, messaging around commodity benefits (instead of unconsidered needs that can drive an unexpected urgency) and talk of “transformations” that have no business value to IT buyers.

The messaging, content and the sales conversations that sales teams should be having should be driven from the positioning – and if that’s off from the beginning, everything else will be out of sync. How can you expect sales to make the value connection and have the right sales conversation – if all the messaging, emails, money slides, whiteboards, “all about my company and products” PowerPoint content that marketing provides with their go-to-market strategy miss the mark?

This is one of the key reasons why 37% of sales reps are failing to hit their quota. They are not given the right positioning, content and ROI selling tools that enable them to have high value selling conversations – value as perceived by the buyer. It’s why they are inconsistent in being in sync with buyers’ needs, communicating value, and closing more deals. This is an evergreen problem and opportunity to fix, and most organizations struggle with how to fix it.

Why is marketing having a ‘Value Connection’ Issue?

Because Marketing is focused on leads and filling the pipeline. They feel that the quicker that they can show the C-Suite “leads” to validate their own value, the better. They are measuring their success by the leads they bring in – even if the leads go nowhere (it must be sales fault if they don’t close!) So they’re not focused on if the messaging and positioning is on target. They’re focused on setting up lead generation programs and getting the solutions to market – everything else is rushed! They haven’t figured out a way to tie messaging, positioning their sales enablement content to increased sales performance to further validate their value.

Marketing is also often an insider and disconnected from the buyer’s world. Yes, they’ll do their very best outside of their 12-hour day job to craft better content so sales can go to market more effectively. The content finally gets launched as an email or portal alert, sales doesn’t embrace the new content, and it falls into the 90% of selling content that doesn’t get used. At least marketing responded, but selling conversations didn’t improve. Precious time, energy and resources were lost. Sound familiar?

How to ensure you’ll make the value connection when sales and marketing go-to-market

I’d like to suggest a much better approach. A core team is formed with the charter to solve the problem. The team is made up of members from the business, marketing, product, and sales. They decide the opportunity cost is way too high, and they can’t afford to go to market twice. They wisely engage with an experienced outsider to facilitate the process and “jump in” to shape a better message that connects with buyers. They shape better sales content that will get used in up-leveling sales conversations. All involved start to seek answers to fundamental questions like:

  • Who are the target customers for our solution?
  • What problem are these customers seeing or more importantly not seeing that our solution could help address?
  • Who are the key buyers for solving this problem, what are their top concerns and how would they benefit personally from solving the problem?
  • What is the business value to their company and the cost of delay in solving the problem?
  • Why would the customer choose us over competitive alternatives in solving the problem?

They then move through a process with specific disciplines. As an example, FutureSight has a process called “Outside Insight” designed to infuse external perceptive into the process of crafting a high-impact message and selling content. It has 4 key stages and disciplines:

Stage 1: Scan – Here you gather and review industry perspective on the solution domain, competitor messaging and positions and internal perspectives and answers to key customer-centric questions.

Stage 2: Develop – Here you craft initial positioning and messaging, conceptual visuals that help you describe the customer problem, solution and set of benefits and review and iterate to hone postioning, messaging and visuals

Stage 3: Test – Here you review positioning, messaging and visuals with key stakeholders, including customers, sales leaders and analysts.

Stage 4: Refine: Here you refine positioning and messaging, build out initial selling content and launch and learn which includes making sure sales are trained to use the customer-centric selling content and refining the content once it has been field reps who have been polled for areas for improvement.

The benefits

Following a process like this with set disciplines will yield a much better message strategy and selling content. This puts sales reps, including the seasoned reps, in a much better position to map more closely to buyers’ needs, express the business value proposition, and motivate individual buyers to take action. All this leads to improved selling conversations and ultimately improved selling performance.

Our clients who have engaged us for a complete sales enablement program have won internal awards and have received promotions because we tie everything to sales performance.

Inside my LinkedIn community, Business Unit Leaders, Chief Revenue Officers, CMOs, VP’s of Sales and Marketing and Product Marketers are discussing the content, tools, and resources they need to enable more sales with their go-to-market strategy. Click here to join our Go-to-Market Sales and Revenue Enablement Group on LinkedIn

By Bruce Scheer, Sales enablement expert and President of FutureSight. He has helped sales teams at leading technology enterprises including CSC, HP and IBM get in sync with buyers using the right messaging, content and ROI selling tools. Inside his new LinkedIn community, you can get even more information that will help you uplevel your sales conversations and drive more revenue from the leads that Marketing creates. Join the Go-to-Market Sales and Revenue Enablement Group.

Originally published by Sales Initiative | 1/23/2017:

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