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A Year in Review: Top B2B Sales Challenges and Opportunities of 2021

A Year in Review: Top B2B Sales Challenges and Opportunities of 2021

The last couple of years have been tumultuous (to say the least) for every business. The COVID-19 crisis forced companies to adopt unprecedented changes in their go-to-market strategies and workforce management. Now that the economy is starting to recover from the chaos of 2020, we’re seeing the ripple effect across sales organizations as leaders try to harness new technologies and find the balance between automation, digital sales, and human interactions to create the best possible customer journey experience 

Throughout 2021, ServiceSource focused its marketing lens on the unique challenges that sales leaders face and provided practical best practices and strategies to help overcome them. Now that it’s the end of 2021, we’re reflecting on our top five thought leadership pieces of 2021. We’ll briefly discuss the blogs, highlight some of the top challenges addressed, and provide some valuable tips to think about as you reflect on your strategies and plans to make 2022 an unforgettably successful year.  

 #1: 6 Challenges Inside Sales Organizations Face and How to Overcome Them 

Inside sales organizations were among the most prominent groups hit by the pandemic. With offices closed worldwide, sales organizations were forced to transition to virtual selling. Many businesses are still finding digital selling a challenge. But there are many ways to build a relationship with prospects over a video call. Below are a few quick tips that we mentioned in the blog to help your teams build rapport while selling virtually:  

  • Schedule dedicated time for the introduction. Encourage your salespeople to take their time, develop a connection, and resist the temptation to talk about business right away.  
  • Always turn the camera on. Video conferencing can help reps gauge their prospect’s body language and interest, so conversation flows more freely. If your rep has their camera on, prospects are likely to turn theirs on, too.  
  • Prioritize calls over email. Even customized emails lack the connection of a video or phone call. Focus on building rapport on a call and using email primarily for follow-up notes.  

Another major issue that many sales leaders are still navigating is chaos in their sales process. Without transparent processes and expectations to support their work, salespeople navigating digital selling quickly burn out. High attrition rates and deteriorating morale often lead sales teams to burn through their pipeline and abandon high-quality leads. 

Creating methodical processes that analyze each stage in your pipeline can guide your team and highlight areas in your pipeline that need focus and improvement to help you drive revenue. Meanwhile, defining best practices and monitoring team performance gives your salespeople explicit goals to target.  

Creating new processes often seems daunting, but your sales team may have more valuable input than you expect. Your strategies will impact how they work, and they may see opportunities that aren’t obvious to someone outside their role. 

#2: 6 Tips to Improve Sales Through the Channel 

Another terrain that has been difficult to navigate in 2021 is improving sales and engagement through the channel. When our teams sit down to learn about a prospect’s business, we are often shocked to learn that they cannot answer this simple question: “What’s most important to your channel, and what is considered a success?” Not having aligned goals often leads to competing interests and frequently leads to subpar performance and erosion of your vendor/partner relationship. It is crucial that you and your channel partners clearly understand what you want to get out of your relationship, especially if you operate with small teams.  

Here are a few examples of what’s essential for many of our customers’ partner channels:  

  • Maximize sales revenue through upsell/cross-sell opportunities   
  • Outsource professional services altogether (marketing, sales, legal)  
  • Improve renewal rates (X% improvement of both on-time and total renewals)  
  • Provide additional coverage for customer engagement (customer support, inside sales, customer success motions) 

In a recent webinar by TSIA, Cisco’s SVP of Renewals, John Wunder, stated that one of their main initiatives for their partner channels in 2021 is to have a straightforward program (and messaging) and stick to it.  

Define a strategy and where/how to pivot to quickly respond to the rapidly changing market. Additionally, make sure your program (especially your incentive program) is as streamlined and straightforward to follow as possible.   

 Establish Clear KPIs For Each Channel Partner 

 With businesses pivoting from a focus on selling products to selling value, there are more customer touchpoints than ever to ensure customer retention and growth. That is why it is essential to have well-established KPIs to measure and hold both yourself and your channel partners accountable.   

Some of the KPIs our customers typically track include:   

  • Customer NPS/Improvements  
  • In-Quarter Retention Rates  
  • Conversion Rate  
  • Close Rate  
  • Resolution Rate  
  • Account Growth %  
  • Customer Sentiment  

#3: 9 Tips to Drive Higher Lead-to-Opportunity Conversion 

Whenever we discover that a prospect is suffering from an inefficient lead qualification process, it’s because several of the nine best practices covered in this blog are not followed. One of the many benefits that ServiceSource brings to our customers is the disciplined processes and experienced teams to consistently drive higher lead-to-opportunity conversions – resulting in high revenue performance.   

Scrub Your MQL List  

To help your inside sales team focus on the highest-quality opportunities, devise a method to score and rank your MQLs so you can prioritize resources. 

This ranking system can be based on: 

  • Product levels 
  • Type of campaigns (e.g., free trial, incentive, new product promotion, etc.) 
  • Timeliness of the outreach 

Use a CRM system that supports lead scoring to pass the most qualified leads to SDRs (Sales Development Representatives) at the optimal time to achieve the highest response and engagement rates. You may de-prioritize MQL follow-up or enter leads that don’t meet your specific criteria into a marketing nurture program.  

Determine Your Sales Engagement Model  

Once you create a ranking system for your MQL list, it’s time to determine how to engage and qualify them. Determine what SQL means to your organization to ensure that opportunities are handed off from inside sales to an AE (Account Executive) or SDR at the right moment. Your SQL can often be determined by defining an account’s Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeline (BANT). 

Set SMART Goals  

Don’t underestimate the value of setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals. Many sales teams overlook the importance of their objectives’ specificity and time-bound nature.  

Some examples of SMART goals you can set for your sales reps: 

  • Reducing the cost of customer acquisition (CAC) by reducing non-essential business travel by X% in the next 12 months. 
  • Boosting lead quality by identifying and contacting seven prospects a week who spend $500K a year on software services. 

Our team uses weekly, quarterly, and yearly SMART goals to perform and validate experiments, achieve incremental growth, and be flexible with our tactics to achieve long-term strategies. 

#4: How to Improve In-Quarter Renewals 

One of the significant shifts since 2020 has been the rise of the subscription/consumption model. Due to the lack of net new sales during the pandemic, customer success and renewals were forced to carry the brunt of many organizations’ revenue. One of the most prominent pain points we have seen is achieving on-time renewals to ensure consistent cash flow. 

Deconstruct Renewal Rates into Three Subcomponents 

Breaking out your renewals into unique measurements, like in-quarter and trailing renewal rates, reveals valuable information your company can use to improve your sales approach.   

When examining renewal rates, dive into these three subcomponents:  

Resolution Rates 

The resolution rate sounds like a renewal rate, but the two are different. This metric measures how many answers (“yes” and “no”) that a team gets from its total pipeline. It proves how well a sales team covers a “batch” of business.  

Action items to pursue: 

  • Dedicate team members to focus on long-tail accounts.  
  • Determine modified contact/selling approaches for this segment of customers, who may buy differently than enterprise accounts.  
  • Coach how to elicit quicker responses from end-user partners.  

Close Rate  

Your close rate is basically how many customers — out of those who responded — told you “Yes.” It measures how well your sales teams are selling the value of renewing with your company.  

Action items to pursue: 

  • Ensure your training focuses reps on understanding the buying process & potential obstacles with each client.  
  • Add more customer touchpoints (health checks) to ensure a customer consistently achieves the value they intended with your product/service, instead of reaching out only at the 90-day renewal mark.  

Conversion Rate  

The conversion rate compares the closed opportunity amount with the current and previous closed transaction amount. This tells you how well your team can increase the value of a contract using sales tactics like multi-years, upselling, cross-selling, add-ons, and upgrades.  

Action items to pursue: 

  • Train employees on how to improve upsell and cross-sell tactics.  
  • Leverage previously mentioned strategies like health checks to capture the voice of the customer for revised sales approaches.  
  • Consider weekly best-practice sharing between reps & teams who are generating best-in-class results.  

#5: 5 Ways Outsourcing Inside Sales Improves Your Bottom Line 

While some businesses may be hesitant to look outside their organization to meet quotas and fill their sales pipeline, there are many benefits that should be considered when putting their 2022 plans together.  

Scale Your Sales Team Faster 

If your business is growing quickly, it may be calling for a larger team to manage the increased demand. You have the choice of going through the recruiting process, but this is time-consuming and will eat up your profit margins. 

By outsourcing inside sales efforts, you instantly acquire greater reach, more staffing locations, and more overall flexibility with your efforts to ensure every segment of your install base is covered, and you’re not leaving money on the table. Additionally, if you are in the process of building an inside sales team for the next phase of growth, diversifying your staffing strategy can help you make leaps with coverage while you refine your coverage model.   

When outsourcing inside sales, organizations can:    

  • Supply the scale. 
  • Deliver a data-driven, proactive customer engagement approach. 
  • Ensure they’re covering every lead intelligently (selling low volumes of hard-to-sell items to a significant number of customers vs. selling large volumes of a small number of popular items) to keep you growing efficiently. 

Improve Your Bottom Line. Period.    

Using an outsourced sales management organization can help your business scale with increased coverage of your MQLs, helping you capitalize on more revenue opportunities without the overhead and additional required resources.    

Thank You from All of Us at ServiceSource 

2021 has been a whirlwind. But we have achieved some tremendous success at ServiceSource. That is because of you. From all of us at the ServiceSource team, we want to thank you for your friendship, partnership, contributions and for helping us all build something that we’re proud of. We will see you all in 2022! 

 

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