WALTHAM, Mass. — October 29, 2013 — Think selling in a difficult economy is a challenge? Try doing so without sales materials. That’s a struggle many sales reps are facing, according to a new survey from cloud-based business presentation company Brainshark, Inc. One in 3 sales reps (33%) reports they’re “often” or “always (on a daily basis)” frustrated by their inability to quickly locate sales materials. How dire is it? More than 1 in 5 (22%) say they’d “need a GPS to find the materials [they] need”!
For its “State of the Sales Rep” survey, Brainshark collected responses from more than 400 sales professionals (reps and managers) at companies across industries. Results show that providing easy, central access to content might alleviate some of reps’ struggles. More than 1 in 4 reps (28%) say their company’s approach to organizing sales materials makes finding the right content chance-driven at best.
Respondents were surveyed about processes and challenges related to preparing for meetings with prospects and customers, presenting during those meetings and following up afterward.
For many sales reps, it’s the nature of their fast-paced jobs: prepping for meetings comes down to the wire. Survey results show:
Where to prepare?
A rep’s gotta do what a rep’s gotta do – and when you need to prepare, it seems just about any place can work. Reps recounted prepping for important meetings in a wide range of locations – from a Porta-Potty to church to a night club to a hospital bed (pre-surgery) to a helicopter and more. Among the top-cited responses:
Regardless of prep location – and even in those most conducive to work – reps report facing challenges. In addition to being stymied by a frequent failure to find sales materials (33%), reps contend with other productivity-busters, including:
Results indicate that closer alignment and collaboration with marketing departments may help. For example, 71% of reps say they receive sales materials from marketing – but of that group, 42% say marketing “rarely” or “never” makes them part of the development process. As a whole, reps say they end up having to create from scratch more than half (51%) of all the content they use.
Reps also note that more/better training would be an asset to them. One in 3 (33%) say they’d benefit from more product-related training; 37% would like more skills training to hone their approaches.
Eye on the prize: Just about any location presents an opportunity for reps to close a deal. In fact, reps described giving sales presentations in a wide range of places – from a wedding to a storage closet to Disney World to a dressing room to a drive-through and more. Top locations included:
Reps report using a variety of tools and technologies to assist them in presentations, including laptops (66%), iPads/tablets (59%), PowerPoint (61%), whiteboards (31%), smartphones (28%) and Web conferencing (38%).
Go commando… or go without the iPad?
Reps cited iPads as major assets during presentations. But for these reps, do tablets trump all? Sales reps reported they’d rather go to a meeting without these items than go without their tablets:
But even with the best technology and preparations, sometimes things still go awry during presentations. From accidentally tripping fire alarms to tooting (but not their own horn), respondents recounted anecdotes including:
Primary – and more common – challenges reps say they encounter during presentations include: technology not functioning (56%), key decision-makers absent from the room (50%), a disengaged or distracted audience (34%) and not feeling well-prepared (14%).
“Humorous anecdotes aside, our survey shows there are very real challenges that sales reps face when preparing for and presenting at meetings,” said Brainshark CMO Andy Zimmerman. “But on the positive side, these can often be easily and cost-effectively overcome. In addition to working toward greater sales and marketing alignment – particularly in terms of content creation and delivery – companies should also gear strategies around today’s fast-paced and mobile-oriented landscape. Reps need access to up-to-date, relevant materials no matter where they are and which device they’re on. Cost-effective and intuitive technology and apps can help, along with a well-planned content strategy.”
The prep work and presenting are done (phew!), but what about post-meeting follow-up? Reps have this as an important item on their to-do lists, most frequently following up via email (92%), phone (70%), with collateral (37%) and with their presentation decks (32%).
They work to overcome challenges including:
“Being able to provide the right follow-up materials at the right time is critical to sustaining buyer interest,” Zimmerman said. “Our results show that with better collaboration and communication across departments, companies can make sure reps have the content they need to close more deals. In addition, being able to follow up in engaging formats, such as through video and with trackable content, can make all the difference. Reps can see whether their follow-up materials are being viewed – as well as when and by whom – helping them ascertain when interest is hot and resulting in more qualified leads.”
MAKING THE GRADE
In this survey, sales reps were also asked to grade how well they prepare, present and follow up. Then, managers were asked to grade their reps’ activities as well. Did both groups agree on whether reps made the grade? They didn’t quite see eye-to-eye.
“These findings point to the importance of easy, rapid access to relevant, up-to-date content for reps, and highlight an opportunity for organizations to make sales and marketing more productive,” said Brainshark CEO Joe Gustafson.
About the survey
Brainshark conducted an online survey, collecting responses from 416 sales professionals (199 sales reps; 217 sales managers) at companies of various sizes and across industries. The survey, distributed in September 2013, asked respondents about strategies, processes and challenges as they relate to preparing for sales meetings, presenting and following up afterward.
Brainshark sales enablement solutions help organizations harness the power of content to achieve faster training, better coaching and more successful sales conversations. Using Brainshark to simplify content creation and delivery, companies can ensure salespeople are always up-to-date with the information and resources they need – anytime, anywhere and from any device. Tight integration with Salesforce empowers reps with fast, easy access to the right content and training for every selling situation. Brainshark’s detailed analytics also help companies tie content directly to revenue and identify the best sales opportunities, while enabling managers to pinpoint best practices to improve coaching effectiveness. Thousands of companies – including half of the Fortune 100 – rely on Brainshark to improve sales productivity and increase the impact of their sales, marketing and training communications. Learn more at www.brainshark.com.