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Management article
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Reference no. R0607C
Published by: Harvard Business Publishing
Published in: "Harvard Business Review", 2006

Abstract

Every year, the research firm CSO Insights publishes the results of its sales performance optimization survey, an online questionnaire given to more than 1,000 sales executives worldwide that seeks to examine the effectiveness of key sales practices and metrics. In this article, two partners from CSO provide the 2005 and 2006 survey highlights, which describe the challenges today's sales organizations face and how they're responding. An overall theme is the degree to which the buy cycle has gotten out of sync with the sell cycle. Buyers have always had a buy cycle, starting at the point they perceive a need. Sellers have always had a sales cycle, starting at the point they spot a prospect. Traditionally, the two have dovetailed - either because the seller created the buyer's perception of need or because the buyer pursued a need by contacting a salesperson (often for product information). Now the buy cycle is often well underway before the seller is even aware there is a cycle - in part because of the information asymmetry created by the Internet. The implications for managing a sales organization are profound in that sales training must now address how reps handle an environment in which buyers have more knowledge than they do. The authors offer evidence that sales executives are taking - and should take - aggressive action to train and retain sales talent, manage the sales process, and use sales support technologies to meet the challenges of this new environment.

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Abstract

Every year, the research firm CSO Insights publishes the results of its sales performance optimization survey, an online questionnaire given to more than 1,000 sales executives worldwide that seeks to examine the effectiveness of key sales practices and metrics. In this article, two partners from CSO provide the 2005 and 2006 survey highlights, which describe the challenges today's sales organizations face and how they're responding. An overall theme is the degree to which the buy cycle has gotten out of sync with the sell cycle. Buyers have always had a buy cycle, starting at the point they perceive a need. Sellers have always had a sales cycle, starting at the point they spot a prospect. Traditionally, the two have dovetailed - either because the seller created the buyer's perception of need or because the buyer pursued a need by contacting a salesperson (often for product information). Now the buy cycle is often well underway before the seller is even aware there is a cycle - in part because of the information asymmetry created by the Internet. The implications for managing a sales organization are profound in that sales training must now address how reps handle an environment in which buyers have more knowledge than they do. The authors offer evidence that sales executives are taking - and should take - aggressive action to train and retain sales talent, manage the sales process, and use sales support technologies to meet the challenges of this new environment.

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