A Study Reveals A Failing 22.3% Sales Effectiveness

Neglecting the Sales Process is costing small business owners billions in lost sales, according to a research study conducted by The Sales Experts, a London-based Sales Recruitment, Training and Consulting firm. SMEs are significantly under performing market leaders in sales effectiveness by as much as 78% restricting growth opportunities.

Between January 7th and April 26, 2013 The Sales Experts conducted research investigating the sales effectiveness of London-based SMEs. The research consisted of a detailed sales review of one hundred and thirty-one sales organizations located within the M25. All of the organizations were privately owned companies with sales teams of between two and thirty-seven salespeople. Access was given to interview all senior management, sales and marketing staff in exchange for full survey results.

The survey measured twenty-two aspects of sales and marketing activities benchmarked against market leading businesses in the same sectors.  This benchmarking process revealed some alarming practices restricting the growth of SMEs. The majority of SMEs fell significantly behind market leaders in levels of sales effectiveness delivering only a fraction of the revenue per salesperson.

Results indicate that the majority of SME’s view sales as a distinct, unsupported, function. Salespeople working with SMEs are generally expected to fully manage brand awareness, prospecting, lead generation, cold calling, closing and CRM maintenance. Market leaders separate these tasks, making use of lower paid sales administration staff, maximizing the effectiveness and revenue of sales teams.

In addition, very few businesses track detailed activity and so are unable to qualify the reasons for the performance gap between top, middle and bottom salespeople. The result is that management lacks the insight to transfer skills between top and average performers resulting in lower overall performance, increased sales failure, high staff turnover, and lower customer satisfaction.

Survey results indicated the following:

  • 98% of companies interviewed did not have a formal, written sales process.
  • 43% of senior managers stated that they had a sales process although not written.
  • 89% of salespeople stated that the company had no formal sales process
  • 76% of salespeople stated that they were actively looking to change jobs
  • 83% of companies have no central, regularly updated, CRM systems
  • 64% of companies had invested in CRM systems that were not fully used or maintained
  • 74% of salespeople stated that CRM systems provided were not suitable
  • 81% of salespeople indicated that they were not provided time to update CRM systems
  • 85% of companies do not use Social Media to specifically generate sales lead
  • 68% of salespeople must to generate all sales leads as part of their sales roles
  • 76% of companies provide no sales training of any kind to salespeople
  • 72% of marketing staff felt that their role did not provide enough scope to significantly impact sales.
  • 86% of salespeople, whose companies had distinct marketing staff, felt that marketing made little or no contribution to supporting the sales function
  • 61% of managers were able to effectively define or describe a sales process
  • 22% of companies do participate in social media because of fears of negative posts
  • 65% of marketing staff felt that management does not understand social media or how social media can boost sales leads
  • 68% of senior managers had no strategy to build sales effectiveness
  • 96% of senior managers are disappointment in sales performance compared to expectations at hiring
  • 89% of managers are not satisfied with sales performance of individual salespeople
  • 71% of salespeople regularly missed sales objectives
  • 89% of salespeople felt goals were unrealistic and unattainable
  • 38% of managers discouraged sales use of LinkedIn to manage relationships


Businesses that do make the effort to design, measure, review and adjust the sales process dramatically increase sales performance and have the opportunity to become market leaders. They set goals, train, measure performance and improve consistently.

Market leaders tend to manage more aspects of the sales process resulting in significantly higher sales, lower costs and higher profit. Increased profit provides resources to further invest and grow – an upward spiral.

There was a wide difference in responses between management and sales and marketing staff suggesting a lack of common ground and a poor level of communication.

Questions revealed that the majority of under performing SMEs view sales as ‘art not science’.  There exists a strong belief that salespeople are born not made.  The result is a culture of hiring a salesperson and letting them work with complete independence, without support, waiting for them to ‘sink or swim’. In addition, there is a reluctance to support the sales effort with ongoing sales management or training believing salespeople either have the ability to sell or not.

The general lack of understanding of the sales process tends to create a strong distrust of salespeople, marketing and the sales process. The result is that most companies had a high turnover of sales teams and had no clear sales strategies or action plans. Marketing is reactionary and not part of an overall sales plan.

The reality is that successful selling is much more science than it is art – usually measurable processes, strong results are predictably produced. SMEs are in a strong position to improve sales quickly by instituting a more disciplined approach to sales and marketing.

How could SMEs improve sales performance?

  1. Create a written sales process. Reasons for having a well-thought-out sales process include seller and buyer risk management, standardized customer interaction during sales, measurable tasks and scalable revenue generation. Approaching the subject from a “process” point of view offers an opportunity to use design and improvement tools from other disciplines and process-oriented industries.
  2. Create written job descriptions that accurately reflect the working environment, resources and expectations. These keep salespeople on purpose and more effective. Goals should be specific, relevant and measurable.
  3. Create sales quotas and goals that are realistic and based on historic results. Intelligent quotas established together with salespeople tend to be more realistic and obtainable.
  4. Create internal benchmarking. Understanding and documenting sales successes and then using that information to train salespeople, transfer skills from top performers to low performers helps the entire team to perform at the highest level possible. This also improves team rapport.
  5. Establish working groups where both sales & marketing staff can leverage efforts to achieve stronger sales results.
  6. Invest in skills training for sales teams.
  7. Measure results and track the impact of changes. ‘What can be measured can be improved.’

SMEs should ask:

  • Do customers and prospects see your salespeople as proactive problem-solvers?
  • Do customers believe your salespeople possess relevant industry knowledge?
  • Do customers think of your salespeople as having high levels of integrity?
  • Are your salespeople building long-term relationships?
  • Are you providing the training and resources to maximize sales performance?

Market leaders hire carefully and then invest in training and supporting sales teams to maximize success, revenue and minimize turnover.

The best performing companies design sales processes, set careful goals, provide ongoing training, measure results and improve performance using positive feedback loops. A sales process if carefully designed and managed can create a predictable, scalable sales model on which a company can grow.

The Sales Experts is a London based, Sales Recruitment, Sales Training, Sales Consulting business working with business of all sized to improve sales performance.