Our findings about strategies that win sales are based on a year-long study consisting of interviews with more than 150 sales professionals from 16 organizations worldwide and across a variety of industries. We met with sales professionals from all ranks to get a better understanding of their experiences in the field, their observations of their customers’ buying attitudes and behaviors, what sales skills they require to be successful, and how their segmentation and sales technology strategies are working. In our study, we first attempted to identify the critical challenges impacting sales organizations, and ultimately, we set out to understand what strategies successful organizations are implementing to address and overcome these challenges.
Organizations were selected to participate based on the performance of their sales organization within their industry. We also looked for companies that had demonstrated success with various strategies involving channel or customer segmentation, training and development of sales skills, or sales technology. Because a sales technology strategy is important for competing in many industries, we focused a portion of our research on organizations that implemented or were in the process of implementing a customer relationship management (CRM) or sales force automation (SFA) system. Other criteria in the selection process were to identify sales organizations that were leading in their respective industries and to find organizations that would provide us a representative sample across industries and geographic regions, including those from Europe, Asia, and North America.
Interviews, each typically about an hour in length, consisted of both face-to-face and telephone conversations. We personally visited all but a few organizations so that we could observe firsthand the sales culture of the organization. On-site visits provided us a richer understanding of the sales operation and allowed us to ask more follow-up and deeply probing questions. We interviewed people at the following levels within each organization:
Heads of sales who were responsible for strategy development
Regional sales leaders who were responsible for the implementation of strategies across regions or areas
Sales managers who were responsible for identifying and developing sales representatives and managing the sales process
Training professionals who were responsible for developing the skills of the sales force
Frontline sales representatives who met with customers on a daily basis and were responsible for executing strategies
As part of our investigation we reviewed documents from each company, including organizational charts, strategy statements, training programs, marketing collateral, annual reports, and descriptions of product or service offerings, to gain a better understanding of how each sales organization worked, and where it was experiencing either challenges or successes in each of the seven primary strategic areas.