CSO Insights (a division of Miller Heiman Group) recently published its 2018-2019 Sales Performance Report. This report describes the findings of the 2018-2019 sales performance survey, which generated responses from nearly 900 global sales leaders.
Sixty-one percent of the respondents were either executive managers or senior sales managers, and respondents represented 23 industries. Half of the respondents (50.8%) were located in North America, and the balance were based in EMEA, APAC, and Latin America.
The CSO Insights study focused specifically on the performance of the sales function, but the survey findings provide valuable insights for everyone involved with B2B demand generation. That's because many of the factors that characterize successful sales performance also apply to the other business functions that play important roles in demand generation.
The Defining Attributes of High Performance
CSO Insights identified three defining attributes of high-performing sales organizations. The study found that respondents from top-performing organizations were more likely than other respondents:
- To say their company has a customer-centric culture
- To report they have a high level of alignment between their sales process and customers' decision-making journey
- To say they are confident in the ability of their sales reps to provide valuable insights and perspectives to potential buyers
These characteristics can be extended and applied to the other business functions involved in demand generation. For example, a marketing organization that excels at demand generation is more likely to:
- Be part of a company with a customer-centric culture
- Align its programs and messaging with the customer buying journey
- Create and use content that provides valuable insights to potential buyers
The authors of the survey report acknowledge this point when they write: "Looking at all three of these characteristics together shows that . . . [high-performing] organizations are embracing 'customer experience' as a broad concept, of which sales process and salespeople are just one piece."
Lead Generation Needs Significant Improvement
The CSO Insights research highlights several areas where better cross-functional collaboration is needed to improve demand generation performance. One of those areas is lead generation. Survey respondents identified improving lead generation as one of their four primary objectives for the coming 12 months, and they also identified the inability to generate enough qualified leads as the second most significant barrier to achieving demand generation success.
Unfortunately, the CSO Insights report reveals a distressing lack of alignment between sales and marketing when it comes to lead generation. For example, only 29.5% of the survey respondents said their sales and marketing teams have an agreed upon, formal definition of who is a legitimate sales lead. And the level of lead definition alignment between sales and marketing has actually gotten worse since 2014, as the following chart shows.
The low level of sales-marketing alignment also shows up in lead nurturing. Only 33.9% of the survey respondents said their sales and marketing teams have an agreed upon, formal process for nurturing leads. Another 30.8% said they have an informal process - whatever that means.
The CSO Insights research provides more compelling evidence that effective B2B demand generation requires a coordinated effort by both sales and marketing, and that sales-marketing alignment is still very much a work-in-progress.
Top Image Source: CSO Insights (a Division of Miller Heiman Group).