Ten years ago, if you told a sales person that they could gather infinite information about buyer preferences, budgets and pain points, and have multiple interactions directly with the customer across a range of different channels, they would have bitten your hand off.

In theory, having access to this sort of insight and interaction on a daily basis should be make selling easier than ever before in the history of sales.  So why are many sales organisations still struggling? Mainly because the customer is streets ahead of you and your sales tools, and their new digital empowerment has little patience while you catch up.

A new independent global research study by Loudhouse, sponsored by SAP, found that most sales organisations are on the back foot when it comes to keeping pace with customer expectations. For many organisations, their sales teams are still struggling in this new digital landscape. More specifically, they are struggling to get to grips with customer context. Customers expect your sales people to understand the specific business challenges that are unique to them. If the contextual issues aren’t at the heart of your sales strategy, then you’re pushing water uphill.

In particular, the report found that sales organisations are struggling with five key aspects:

  1. Failing to align internal sales processes so they can align with the buyer cycle.
  2. Not fully engaging with customers across all channels – particularly social media.
  3. Inability to implement accurate and effective sales forecasting.
  4. No holistic customer view or ability to deliver personalised, targeted experiences across all channels and touch points.
  5. Inability to strategically use all available customer data to drive contextual selling.

The main reason sales organisations are struggling is quite simple – the customer has moved on, but your sales tools haven’t. In fact, the report found that more than half of sales leaders say their sales tools haven’t been updated in two years, and eighty five per cent admit that they’ll be facing serious growth problems in the next two years if they don’t address this issue. No matter how good your sales people are, if they don’t have modern tools at hand, meeting revenue targets, hitting corporate KPIs or giving the best service to the increasingly sophisticated and demanding customer becomes impossible.

Sales teams require more than an automation tool or an outdated CRM system. Much of the functionality in existing CRM systems today has been superseded by the voracious customer demands of the new sales landscape.  Sales teams need fully integrated, end to end solutions that give real time visibility, better agility, and access to customer history, context and preferences with a 360 degree customer view.

Simply trying to ‘muscle your way’ to meeting revenue targets is not sustainable, nor does it bode well for long term relationships or repeat business with customers. Two thirds of sales directors know their current systems are a barrier to future growth. If you’re one of them, it’s time to get serious about closing the gap, empowering your sales organisation with modern, fit for purpose tools, and putting customer context at the heart of your sales strategy.

To download a full copy of the research findings click here

Kevin Kimber is Managing Director for Cloud at SAP UKI