Thriving in the next wave of sales innovation, are European companies really ready?

The sales landscape is shifting – but what does it take to stay ahead of the game? Here’s how to thrive, rather than simply survive, the next wave of sales innovation.

January 15, 2020

Thriving in the next wave of sales innovation, are European companies really ready?

The sales landscape is shifting – but what does it take to stay ahead of the game?   

When I started in sales back in 1991, sales technology was the ability to reach out and have a conversation with somebody without actually being in a room with them. And the state-of-the-art data platform that helped you do that was a collection of address cards that you could swivel around. Namely a desk telephone and a Rolodex  

Of course, we’ve moved on since then. Today, every imaginable aspect of sales – from the way we engage with buyers to how we manage our teams – can be enhanced by technology. According to Sales Hacker, there are now over 950 distinct vendors in the sales tech space – 15% more than a year ago. 

Why data means business 

But what has driven this explosion in sales tech? The answer is simple: data.  

Every 10 minutes today we are generating roughly the same amount of data that the world had produced up to 2003. 

Data is often referred to as the new oil – not only because it’s so valuable, but because data can lie dormant and untapped – and right now most of the data relevant to sales is doing exactly that. 

Just as with oil, all of that potential depends on technology to tap it. Are we prepared to invest in tapping the value of the data on offer though? When I look around the UK and Europe, I’m not convinced that we are. There’s currently a huge difference between the level of sales tech activity in North America and western Europe ( including the UK ), and in general, the GDP of the EU is roughly the same as the US, indicating the commercial opportunities are similar.

One indicator of this is a comparison between how many people the Top 120 Sales Tech vendors employ in each region, there are twice as many salespeople employed selling into the North American markets than in Europe, combined with anecdotal feedback this points to a lower level of spend/investment in sales tech to enable your average European B2B salesperson to meet the needs of modern buyers, many of those buyers can be outside Europe.

I was then surprised when we looked at LinkedIn data that shows us the “Attrition” percentage of B2B salespeople in Europe is more than 30% higher than in North America, and even more surprising that “Tenure” in North America is more than 20% higher

Our data suggests that this growing sales tech gap is costing our businesses competitive advantage in terms of productivity, effectiveness, revenue and sales team morale.  

We’re used to thinking of the US as an environment with lower levels of employment protection, and yet attrition in Europe’s sales function is now a third higher than in North America and the average tenure is lagging behind.  

Put simply, North American companies lose their salespeople less frequently and they also stay with their employer longer when compared to their European peers.

When data shows that 59% of millennials – who now make up around half of our workforce – believe technology is important when considering a job, it’s clear that to compete effectively, we have to close the gap in sales tech investment.  

Stop sitting on data; start extracting value from it 

So, where to start?  

The key to unlocking real value from sales tech is understanding where the competitive advantage lies. In the next wave of sales tech innovation, the cycle is being driven by the challenges that sales automation is now coming up against – like the number of buyers involved in a buying decision. 

Technology has enabled increased buyer complexity; there are now more people in the buying group, and decision-making is distributed across functions and geographies.  

Crucially, 77% of buyers believe that sales teams don’t understand their business. This means that the sales tech investments that can now deliver the greatest returns are those that don’t just automate outreach – they strengthen relationships and enable sales teams to build those relationships at scale. Investing in sales tech is your way of tapping both. 

Invest in relationships at scale by investing in tech 

For tech to drive the building of relationships at scale, it needs the best possible source of relationship data – which can be found within your sales team, right now. And yet, the LinkedIn connections between a typical sales team are not currently being fully exploited.  

In the last five years, I’ve worked at two organisations: with combined sales teams of over 30,000 people, however, my total number of LinkedIn connections since I joined in 2007 as a member, is slightly fewer than 4,000. It’s just not possible to achieve a mass of connections at an enterprise-level business manually. The only way to get there is by investing in sales technology that taps this whole source of relationship data and doesn’t rely on individuals – and that system is Sales Navigator.

The results speak for themselves: sellers in sales organisations with high interconnectivity view three times more decision-maker profiles and add three times more decision-maker connections. Technology is your shortcut to building relationships at scale. 

One of the ways that this can happen is through Teamlink. It will show you who in your network, as well as your colleagues’ networks, can provide the best introduction. You’ll also be able to see what you have in common that might facilitate a conversation.  

From playing catch-up to getting ahead 

Ultimately unlocking the power of relationship data through technology delivers rapid returns on investment. LinkedIn analysed over 600,000 opportunities and found that when sales reps had six or more connections with their buyer, they not only saw a 34% lift in win rate compared to reps that had just one connection, but they decreased the length of their sales cycle by 10%. 

This represents the most powerful competitive advantage in sales today because so few organisations have been able to deploy it. In fact, only 7% of the 600,000 deals we studied had six or more connections from the seller to the buyer. Most deals still travel through the pipeline to completion the hard way.  

So, think about the productivity gains that could be achieved by increasing the interconnectedness within your sales organisation. This is where sales tech that makes a difference: it delivers returns you can be confident of – and most importantly, it changes the game from catching up to finding opportunities to get ahead. 

It's time to level the field !