Trying to provide salespeople with the tools, data, expertise, and support they require to navigate complex deals has made selling more difficult, not less. Our research at CEB, now Gartner, shows sellers working in “high burden” organizations have a 12% lower conversion rate than those who don’t.
Fair or not, from a rep’s perspective the main burden isn’t customer difficulty or product complexity. It’s their own organization — the internal processes, unintegrated and hard-to-use systems, layers of approvals, difficult-to-find and time-strapped support professionals, and tools, platforms, and data spread across multiple systems. According to more than 2,000 B2B sales reps, internal complexity causes 20% of stalled and lost deals. And as a company moves from low to high internal complexity, Seller Burden increases by as much as 62%.
This massive productivity loss is why suppliers must think far more carefully about the “Seller Experience,” or how reps experience the job. It’s the way work makes them feel, how engaged they are as a result and the real cost of bad experiences.
Seller Experience shouldn’t seem that foreign — virtually every B2B organization now has some sort of Customer Experience initiative underway. But here’s an interesting (and troubling) question: How many of us could honestly say we manage our sellers’ experience with anywhere near as much care and precision? That would be a rare organization indeed.
We typically see the opposite: “I don’t care how our sellers feel. I care whether they actually sell.” And yet our customer experience research — as well as a wide range of secondary work — finds a crucial link between employee experience and customer experience. And there’s arguably no function more important to creating that crucial customer connection than sales teams, who interact with customers every day. They are literally the face of your organization.
So how might we reduce internal complexity currently undermining Seller Experience?
Our research reveals four meaningful opportunities:
1) Reduce Distractions
Reducing distraction involves the non-sales requests for time and attention that hit front-line salespeople nearly every day — employee surveys, one-off projects, financial reporting, HR requirements, compliance training, general administrative requests, and so on. Some are important, some are not. The best organizations not only minimize these requests but align the rest — the “non-negotiables” — to what reps can realistically handle. That way, reps are less likely to get distracted or bogged down by artificial organizational deadlines that have nothing to do with their primary job. It seems straightforward. And it is. But it also requires operational rigor and systematic precision specifically denominated in both Seller Experience and the actual opportunity cost of an hour’s worth of seller time.
2) Streamline Workflow
Streamlining workflow means reducing the time and effort necessary to gather information across people and systems, win approvals across functions and silos, and figure out how to use sales tools. This is where many enablement teams can easily lose the forest for the trees, providing reps with a host of individual tools that might be relatively easy to use on their own, but overlooking the time, pain, and effort required to move from one to the next and combine the results.
3) Ease Resource Navigation
To ease resource navigation, alleviate the huge amount of time and effort reps spend tracking down resources. Who do I talk to? How do I get their time? Where do I find that information? Which system has that data? Who has authority to sign off on this? What other people do I need to involve?
How much time do reps spend searching for answers to these questions? From a leader’s perspective, it feels a little exasperating. You’ve probably been over these topics a hundred times, providing guidance and training. But from a seller’s perspective, this is deeply frustrating: “Just one more distraction I don’t need! Clearly, if my company cared at all, they wouldn’t make it so hard to get the help I badly need!”
4) Focus Selling Support
Focusing selling support may be the most important. It means enabling reps to make better decisions by telling them which tools and activities matter most and helping them at high-priority moments.
In other words, you lock reps’ attention on a small number of individual moments across a sale so they don’t have to prioritize for themselves. Instead, they can focus on selling.
Rather than spreading support thickly and evenly across the entire sales process, like peanut butter, the best organizations determine in advance where and when support is most critical and concentrate support almost exclusively to those key areas.
Notice how different this approach is from what most leaders do to support reps struggling with sales complexity. These four drivers don’t add, they take away. This isn’t a provision solution, it’s an elimination solution. When the core problem sellers are facing is “too much,” the solution must be “provide less.”
We call this approach “Ruthless Simplicity.” Ruthless Simplicity isn’t an answer to a sales capability problem (“Give them more help!”), it’s an answer to a sales complexity problem (“Reduce Seller Burden!”). Yes, we must support the sale, but never at the expense of supporting the seller.