We live in an unprecedented time when it comes to sales research. For the first time, we have the tools at our disposal to truly understand what works and what doesn’t from a sales perspective.
This sales research has the power to transform the way everyone sells for the better.
Most recently, the Sales Insights Lab analyzed 23,900 sales conversations, comparing the conversations of top performers to those of everyone else. All of the reps in this study already use a consultative sales approach—we just wanted to see what the top reps were doing differently to set themselves apart.
The data from this study is completely new insight into what actually works in sales today.
In this video, I’m going to show you some counterintuitive sales tips from our new sales statistics. Check it out:
1. Create more back-and-forth.
One of the most powerful insights we determined from our new sales statistics is that top performers are making 54% more conversation switches on calls, and 78% more conversation switches in presentations. So, on average, top performers have significantly more back-and-forth across all calls. This means that they avoid long monologues on either side of the conversation. I talk, you talk. I talk, you talk.
What we take away from this is that salespeople should constantly be going back-and-forth with the prospect using quick questions—in every selling situation. At the same time, this requires that we actively listen and use feedback loops such as, “I hear what you’re saying,” “that makes sense,” or even just, “cool.” Our new sales statistics are unequivocal that creating more conversational back-and-forth will significantly increase the likelihood that you ultimately close the deal.
2. Make your sales meetings longer.
Another important insight from our new sales statistics is that top performers’ discovery calls are 76% longer than those of average performers, and their presentation meetings are 55% longer. That’s a huge difference on both counts. This means that top performers are scheduling meetings that are almost twice as long as those of the average rep.
The key takeaway here is that top performers are able to engage prospects in far longer conversations than everyone else. By the same token, they’re also expecting more time from prospects at the get-go.
And this makes sense. Bottom performers typically beg their prospects for five minutes of their time—and then just hope that the conversation goes longer. Yet top performers expect more time from their prospects right out the gate, simply asking for more time up front. Thus, they’re setting the expectations for longer conversations. (And yes, once they’re having those conversations, they’re also better able to engage their prospects for longer.)
At the end of the day, our sales statistics show that the length of your meetings will ultimately have a huge impact on the likelihood of closing the deal. Moving forward, determine how long a meeting should really take, and ask for that amount of time up front.
3. Get them talking—a lot.
When we analyzed our latest sales statistics, we were at first surprised to learn that top performers don’t necessarily talk less than average and bottom-performing reps who use a consultative approach. But here’s the kicker: Our research clearly showed that, although they’re not talking much less, top performers are still getting prospects to talk way more. How? Because they’re creating so much more back-and-forth.
This sales statistic is one of the most counterintuitive, so let’s break it down a bit more.
We found that in terms of actual talk-to-listen ratio, there’s not a huge difference between top performers and everyone else—it’s about 50/50 across the board. (Again, amongst only salespeople who are using a question-based consultative approach.)
For example, the average discovery call or presentation meeting is about 50/50 in terms of talk-to-listen ratio between salesperson and prospect, whether that salesperson is a top performer or an average to bottom performer.
However, as we learned from our sales statistics analysis, top performers are making a ton more conversation switches during each meeting. So while on the surface it may not seem like a compelling piece of data that top performers don’t talk less than everyone else, when you combine it with the fact that they create way more back-and-forth in their conversations, you can see that top performers are really behaving very differently. They’re simply engaging in dynamic back-and-forth with their prospects at a much higher rate.
And on the other hand, while bottom and average performers still have a 50/50 talk-to-listen ratio, there are longer periods of silence and talking, with fewer conversation switches throughout—and thus less engaged prospects who are less likely to buy.
The takeaway here is to consistently engage the prospect in a conversation. When you say something, make sure they understand exactly what you’re saying by using a little feedback loop: “Does that make sense?” “Can you see what I’m saying there?” Get them to nod their head or say, “Yeah, that makes sense.” Or, if you have a quick question, ask it: “Why is that?” “Help me understand why you think that is.” These engaging back-and-forth conversation switches are the key to success in selling right now.
4. Slow things down.
Another fascinating insight from our new sales statistics: Top performers speak more slowly than everyone else. In fact, our research shows that top performers speak at an average of about 171 words per minute, while the rest of the team speaks at around 182 words per minute. While that’s only about a 6.5% difference, it’s an obvious, audible difference in talking pace during conversation.
But what’s even more interesting is that the pace at which top performers’ prospects speak is significantly different as a result.
Top performers’ prospects speak at around 174 words per minute, while average and bottom performers’ prospects speak at around 198 words per minute. That’s a 14% difference.
These new sales statistics suggest that prospects talking to lower-performing reps may feel more impatient or in a rush to get through the conversation. On the other hand, top-performing reps likely put prospects at ease, make them feel comfortable, and slow down the conversation.
Think about it another way. If you’re talking to a therapist about something you really care about, you’re going to naturally slow down your pace. The best salespeople make their prospects feel that way, too.
The bottom line is that top performers put prospects at ease, slow down the conversation, and fully engage in the conversation. They allow prospects the space to slow down, too. It’s time to become aware of your pace and tonality. Are you just going through a checklist on every sales call, or are you closely listening to what your prospects are saying? This is key to slowing down your pace—and theirs.
5. Ask more questions, get more questions.
This next insight from our new sales statistics was really mind-blowing. We learned that top performers are both asking and receiving far more questions. In discovery conversations, top performers are asking about 40% more questions in discovery. At the same time, in presentation meetings, top performers are asking about 30% more questions during their actual presentations. That’s pretty amazing. But just as interesting is the fact that we also see top performers receiving far more questions from prospects. In fact, top performers are receiving 40% more questions during discovery, and during presentations, top performers are receiving 43% more questions. This is an enormous difference.
So let’s break down these sales statistics.
The first part deals with how many questions salespeople are asking. The reality is that salespeople need to be asking more questions in most cases. Now, again, this is not about peppering prospects with probing questions, but rather actively listening. Then, when a prospect says something that you’re not sure you fully grasp, ask questions such as, “Can you help me understand that?” These little spontaneous questions make a huge difference during discovery, during presentation, and after you share a piece of information. You’re essentially using a feedback loop to re-engage the prospect every time.
This brings us to the second part of the sales statistics data, which deals with how many questions your prospects are asking. If you’re asking lots of strong questions, and having sales conversations that are fully engaged, you’re much more likely to receive more questions. Salespeople often get nervous when they’re getting peppered with questions, but it’s actually a good sign. When your prospects are asking you questions appropriately and with respect, you know that they’re engaged with what’s going on. That’s an important sign that you’re getting closer to the sale.
6. No more features.
Our sales statistics were crystal clear about the fact that top performers discuss product features far, far less than average and bottom performers do. In discovery calls, product features come up about half as often in high-performing salespeople’s conversations than in average and bottom-performing salespeople’s conversations.
At the same time, during the presentation, product features come up 63% less in top performers’ conversations than in everyone else’s. This is such an important distinction because it proves that salespeople must move away from focusing on the features of their product or service.
The reality is, your prospects don’t care about your product or service. They only care about whether you have a solution to their problems. That’s why top performers focus on the features of what they’re selling so much less than everyone else.
Moving forward, how can you learn from these new sales statistics to be focused on the solutions you provide as opposed to the specific features of your product or service?
So there you have it. Now you know the counterintuitive tips from our new sales statistics. How will this data influence the way you sell? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below to join the conversation.
More Sales Statistics From Our Other Sales Study…
Do you see the world of sales shifting around you? If so, you’re not alone.
The truth is, selling has transformed dramatically over the past few years. And we’ve got the sales statistics to prove it.
While many sales gurus might tell you that sales has changed a lot recently, few—if any—of them will cite real sales statistics to support the claim.
That’s why I decided to put my social science degree from Harvard to work—and finally get some hard data and sales statistics around what’s happening right now in the industry.
The result is our Salespeople Perceptions and Top Performance Study.
For this groundbreaking sales statistics study, we surveyed nearly 400 salespeople to get powerful insight into today’s selling world: how it’s changing, what it means for you in the field, and how to be a top performer.
Taken together, these sales statistics show a rapidly changing sales environment requiring new skills—and a completely different outlook—than just a few years ago.
Here, I’m going to walk you through the stunning results of our survey.
In particular, there are more sales statistics you need to know about right now.
7. At least half of all prospects are bad fits.
Our sales statistic data shows that at least 50% of your prospects aren’t a good fit for what you sell. 71.4% of respondents said that 50% or fewer of their initial prospects turn out to be a good fit.
This is one of those sales statistics that confirms what I’ve been saying for years.
Now, we can see without any doubt that it’s true: Your prospects are very unlikely to turn out to be a good fit for what you sell.
This doesn’t mean that they’re qualified prospects who end up disappearing on you. Rather, it means that the majority of your prospects will never be qualified to buy from you—they’re just bad fits from the start.
This is such a powerful insight.
Once you realize that the majority of your prospects aren’t going to be a good fit, it will change the way you approach prospecting.
This information should liberate you, because it means that you don’t have to try to close every single person you’re in front of.
If you look at closing rates for most industries, even the highest are only in the 20% range, while the lowest are in single digits.
Let this sales statistic liberate you.
Stop trying to close every single person you get in front of. As soon as you determine that a prospect isn’t a good fit, move on.
8. Budget is the most common reason that stronger sales opportunities fall apart.
More than half (55%) of respondents said that budget was either the first or second most common reason that stronger opportunities fall apart in sales. See below:
This sales statistic confirms what many of us have known all along.
Budget is absolutely critical.
Even so, far too many salespeople are missing the budget portion of their selling process. They just don’t build real value throughout the discovery conversation, so that by the time they start talking about budget, it’s an uphill battle.
This is true for the majority of salespeople—I see it all the time.
The takeaway is that you must be stronger, up front, in creating real value for prospects.
By the time you start talking about budget, you want to be strolling across a level field, not fighting up a steep hill.
Now, budget is always going to be an issue in sales. It’s never going to suddenly just disappear as a concern.
But you can avoid so many headaches just by making sure you’re stronger up front, creating value in the discovery phase.
That way, you’re never fighting your way through the budget conversation.
9. Most salespeople just aren’t getting in front of enough prospects.
66.7% of respondents said they had reached out to 250 or fewer leads in the past year.
That’s a shockingly low number for most types of sales, and it means that the majority of salespeople aren’t getting in front of anywhere close to the 250-plus prospects they need to.
On the other side of the coin, our sales statistics study showed that only 15% of salespeople reached out to over 1,000 prospects over the past year.
So, the majority of salespeople aren’t reaching out to that many prospects, while a small group of salespeople are reaching out to tons of prospects.
Where do you fit on that spectrum? Chances are, you need to be getting in front of more prospects than you currently are in order to hit your sales numbers. See below:
10. Most companies are providing at least a quarter of salespeople’s leads.
77.3% of respondents said that their company provides at least a quarter of their leads.
This is one of the most interesting sales statistics about organizations to come out of the survey.
Why? Because this sales statistic tells us that salespeople are responsible for finding the other three-quarters on their own.
This information can give you great insight into the type of organization you’re working for. Are you at a company that’s providing more than a quarter of your leads? Or does your company provide you with way less than a quarter of your leads?
These are questions you want to ask when trying to understand where you stand as a salesperson in today’s selling industry.
Now, just because your company doesn’t provide a quarter of your leads doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re stabbing you in the back. Maybe they’re providing you with tremendous resources to get in front of those prospects on your own.
But it’s important for you to know that most organizations today are providing at least a quarter of leads to their salespeople.
So, if your company isn’t, then that might be a conversation you should be having with senior management.
11. Sales is getting tougher than before.
61% of salespeople consider selling harder or much harder than just five years ago. This is a really profound sales statistic.
Why? Because this sales statistic shows that the majority of salespeople find it harder to sell today than they did five years ago.
(By the way, the economy has only gotten better in the past five years, so that means there are other factors besides the economy making sales much harder.)
Looking at where you fit into that spectrum, do you consider selling to be harder or easier than it was five years ago? If you think it’s easier now, that’s great.
But if you’re finding it harder, ask yourself: What is actually making it harder?
Dig into that, and try to identify how can you solve some of those challenges on your own.
12. It’s slightly harder to get in front of new prospects than before.
54% of respondents thought it was harder or much harder to get in front of prospects today than it was 5 years ago.
Out of the whole survey, this is one of the sales statistics that struck me the most, because I hear salespeople complain all the time about how hard it is to get in front of prospects these days.
They tell me that prospects never answer their phones or respond to emails anymore.
But what our study actually found was that only slightly more than half of salespeople thought it was harder to get in front of prospects today than five years ago.
This means that only a slight majority of salespeople feel this way.
So, this sales statistic should give us pause and make us think about what’s going on here.
Yes, maybe prospects are answering their phones less, and maybe they’re less inclined to respond to emails. But there are so many more tools available today to help us get in front of new prospects, at the same time.
Getting in front of prospects today isn’t necessarily that much harder. Perhaps it’s just a little bit trickier.
So, we have to be a little bit sharper.
We need to be using those cutting-edge tools, and we need to make sure that we’re still getting in front of as many prospects as we need to get in front of, in order to achieve our sales goals.
13. The phone is STILL our best tool in selling.
41.2% of respondents said that the phone is the most effective sales tool at their disposal.
This is one of the most surprising sales statistics that came out of our study, and it’s one that I truly didn’t expect to see.
I expected people to say that email was better, or LinkedIn, or some other social media platform.
But you know what? The phone still really works.
This should be a real wakeup call for all of us—no pun intended.
Even with so many tools now at our disposal, we still need to use the phone as a way to get in front of prospects, to connect with prospects, and to sell to prospects.
It’s such an important reminder, in a world dominated by conversations about social media, email, and marketing automation, that the phone really works.
So, don’t forget about it.
14. The vast majority of salespeople today barely ask for referrals.
A whopping 57.9% of respondents said they ask for fewer than one referral per month, while 40.4% report rarely asking! Only 18.6% ask every person they are in front of.
This is one of the most upsetting sales statistics from our study.
Why? Because asking for referrals is one of the easiest ways to grow business. And yet, so few salespeople are doing it.
This is something I’ve been teaching salespeople for years: We want to be asking for introductions or referrals as often as we possibly can.
I see this as a huge opportunity for salespeople who want to up their game.
Ask for more referrals and introductions than you ever have before. Only 18.6% of salespeople are actually doing this today.
There’s only one upside. You’ll get more business.
15. Most salespeople don’t love their job.
Only 17.6% of respondents rate their job satisfaction as outstanding, while 47.1% rate their job satisfaction as just good.
That first sales statistic is a pretty low number—17.6%. I’ve dedicated my whole life to helping salespeople be more effective and successful, yet only a small sliver of them are actually saying, “You know what? I love what I do. My work really fulfills me. It is outstanding.”
Now let’s look at that next sales statistic: 47.1% rated their job as just good. This is a place where I’ve decided more of my life’s mission needs to be focused.
I want to see more salespeople feeling good about their jobs.
Now, I know that I can’t control all aspects of your job, and you can’t control all aspects of whether you love your job.
You could have a boss who’s just a complete chucklehead, and you can’t control that.
But there are many things that we can control to make sure that we get a higher level of job satisfaction, and we want to make sure that we’re following through on that.
As you’ll see from the next sales statistic, there’s a strong correlation between job satisfaction and the amount of sales activity that we’re doing.
16. Salespeople who spend more time on sales-related activities enjoy their job more.
So, I gave you a little teaser, and here it is: There’s a notable jump in job satisfaction between 3 hours spent on sales-related activities and 4 hours.
Salespeople who spend 3 hours or less on sales-related activities have an overall average job satisfaction level of 3.45 (out of 5), while people who spend 4 or more hours a day on sales-related activities have a job satisfaction level of 3.8.
What we can take from this sales statistic is that salespeople who are doing more sales activity are more likely to be successful, and as a result of that success, they have higher degrees of job satisfaction.
Now, I know that the data wonks are going say, “Well, we don’t know that with 100% confidence.” No, of course we don’t know that with 100% confidence—but logically, that’s what we see happening here.
Salespeople who do more sales activity have more success and thus feel better about their job.
My challenge to you is to make yourself more successful. Follow through with your sales activity and the data shows you’re going to have a higher degree of job satisfaction.
Now, again, if you hate the company you’re at or you don’t like your boss, these are problems that you may have to address in other ways.
But if you feel like the fundamentals of your job are good, it’s time to focus on improving the quality of your work so you can improve your job satisfaction in a meaningful way.
17. Company culture and management effectiveness matter most to salespeople.
The graph below shows that company culture and management effectiveness were rated as the most important to salespeople, while base compensation was rated significantly lower:
This sales statistic tells us that managers and sales organizations should focus on having great company culture and management effectiveness.
So often, we’re spending a lot of time focusing on compensation structures and those aren’t necessarily as important.
They do matter, of course, and your salespeople will tell you that compensation structures matter.
But ultimately, the data from this sale statistics study shows that what matters more are management effectiveness and company culture.
If you’re at an organization that doesn’t have these, then maybe you want to think about moving on.
18. Even salespeople know that people don’t like them.
The word cloud below shows the most common words that respondents used to describe the average buyer’s perceptions of salespeople.
Those words were:
In our sales statistics survey, we asked salespeople to use words to describe what typical prospects associate with salespeople.
(This is something that we’ve seen in a lot of buyer surveys about what buyers think, but not in surveys of salespeople themselves.)
And what we came back with was that the most common words that salespeople use to describe average buyer perceptions of salespeople were really bad words.
Even the word “time” isn’t meant in a positive way. They mean it as in “a waste of time” or “time-suck.”
What’s incredible is that even salespeople recognize that they have a disadvantage the second they’re in front of a prospect, which is that the prospect is likely to be guarded.
The prospect is likely to have a negative connotation about salespeople already. And by understanding that, we know that we need to be that much better.
We need to be that much more distinct; if we’re not, we’re going to be automatically placed in that bucket.
And, by the way, these ideas match up very closely with what buyers actually think when they’re surveyed. It’s pretty powerful.
19. Most salespeople aren’t crushing their goals.
According to our sales statistics study, only 24.3% of salespeople exceeded their quota last year.
Now, this may not surprise you, but I was pretty blown away that only 24.3% of salespeople actually exceeded their quota last year.
I thought it would have been much higher.
So many salespeople talk a big game, and act like they’re so great at selling, yet only a quarter of salespeople actually exceeded their quota last year.
What this powerful sales statistic tells us is that the majority of salespeople have a lot of work to do in order to get to that next level.
If you’re watching this and you’re saying, “Well, I actually fit into that category of salespeople who did not exceed their quota last year,” maybe it was a bad year for you, or maybe this is something that you’ve been struggling with for a long time.
Either way, we need to make sure that this year is the year that you exceed your quota.
We need to make sure that you’re implementing the strategies that will allow you to truly exceed your quota with flying colors.
20. Non-top performers do a lot more pitching.
While only 7% of top performers report pitching, 19% of non-top performers pitch their offering.
This is a huge distinction.
Basically, what we see is that the non-top performers are much more likely to pitch their services or their offering.
It’s important to recognize that top performers are not doing that.
They’re not pitching their offering. Instead, our sales statistics show that they’re engaging prospects in conversations. They’re digging into prospects’ challenges. They’re engaging them as an advisor, as an expert in their industry, as opposed to just saying, “Hey, here’s what we’ve got. Look at all the cool items and features and benefits that we have.”
21. Top performers ask for a lot more referrals.
Listen to this sales statistic: About 47% of top performers ask for referrals consistently (every day, or with every person they are in front of), versus only 26% of non-top performers. Non-top performers were much more likely to report asking for referrals “never” or “rarely.”
This is a stunning piece of information. In fact, I’d argue that it’s one of the most powerful sales statistics from the study because it shows that a huge difference between top performers and non-top performers is that top performers are simply asking for referrals consistently.
They’re asking for those introductions and referrals, and as a result they’re growing their businesses.
So, it doesn’t even necessarily mean that their selling technique or their closing technique is that much better, although in many cases it is.
What they’re doing is consistently asking for more referrals.
In fact, non-top performers were much more likely to report asking for referrals either never or rarely ever.
This is just mind-blowing, right?
We now see that one of the biggest differentiators between the two groups is simply the act of asking for referrals.
22. Top performers surf the web less, and drive to meetings more.
One of the most powerful sales statistics to come out of our study is the fact that while top and non-top performers reported spending a similar amount of time on CRM and paperwork, top performers were much less likely to note “surfing the web” as a main activity they waste time on (12% of top performers vs. 24% of non-top performers).
Instead, top performers tend to spend more time driving to meetings (25% of top performers selected this vs. 12% of non-top performers).
This was one of my favorite and most unexpected sales statistics to come out of the survey.
Top performers are not only goofing around on the internet way less (which we would have expected) but they’re also complaining that they have to drive to way more meetings.
Here’s the thing: While all salespeople spend a similar amount of time on CRM and paperwork, top performers are much less likely to note that they’re surfing the web as a main activity that they waste time on.
So, only about 12% of top performers versus 24% of non-top performers talk about the fact that they’re surfing on the web.
On the other side of it, top performers tend to spend more time driving to meetings. So, 25% of top performers complained about the fact that they have to waste so much time just driving to meetings, while only 12% of non-top performers had any issue with driving to meetings.
What we see here are basically two consistent narratives.
On the one hand, top performers are really busy, so they’re not surfing the web, but they’re also really busy because they’re just driving to meetings.
They’re physically going to meetings.
On the other hand, non-top performers are wasting a lot more time just surfing the internet, and at the same time they’re not going to as many meetings.
So, they don’t even have the opportunity to complain about having to drive to meetings.
It’s a profound distinction.
Become one of those salespeople who complains that you have to spend too much time driving to meetings.
Because if you’re spending too much time driving to meetings, that means you’re going to meetings—and thus you’re being successful.
23. Top performers spend more hours per day on actual sales activities.
81.6% of top performers spend 4 hours or more on sales-related activities (prospecting, sales meetings, presentations, proposal work, sales follow-up, etc.), while only 60.8% of non-top performers spend 4 hours or more on sales-related activities.
Let’s dig a little deeper into what this sales statistic means—because it’s really profound.
As the above graph shows, there is a big gap after three hours.
Top performers are simply spending a lot more time on sales-related activities.
Non-top performers are simply spending less time on sales-related activities.
They’re getting distracted. They’re doing other things. They’re surfing the web or they’re getting stuck in operations.
This sales statistic shows that, for top performers, the key to success is simply putting in the time on those key sales-related activities.
Hold yourself accountable to do a little bit more.
BONUS SALES STATISTIC: Top performers know they’re experts.
51% of top performers report being seen as “an expert in their field” while only 37% of non-top performers see themselves as experts. What’s more, top performers were less likely to be seen as vendors (8% of top performers vs. 24% of non-top performers) or even as salespeople (7% of top performers vs. 20% of non-top performers).
This sales statistic reveals a critical distinction.
I wasn’t sure exactly how this was going to pan out in our sales statistics study, but what ended up happening was that top performers overwhelmingly reported seeing themselves as experts, and understanding that they are seen as experts by their prospects.
One of the biggest steps you can take to be more successful is to make sure you’re not being seen as a vendor.
Remember, only 8% of top performers said that they were seen as a vendor while 24% of non-top performers said that they were seen as a vendor.
The other thing to think about is just the word “salesperson.”
Only 7% of top performers reported being seen as a salesperson, while 20% of non-top performers said that they were seen as a salesperson.
Just the word itself connotes a negative mindset. Top performers are seeing themselves as—and ensuring that they are seen by their prospects as—the experts.
So, there you have it. These are the additional sales statistics you need to know about right now from our Salespeople Perceptions and Top Performance Study. I want to hear from you. Which of these sales statistics shocked you the most? Which did you find easy to believe? And which do you find most useful? Be sure to share below in the comments section to get involved in the conversation.
And for you data nerds like me, here is the full Study Data:
Overall sales statistics results summary
The sales statistics survey opened on Tuesday, 4/3/18, and results were downloaded on Monday, 4/16/18 at 1pm EST. This report includes all data collected during this time (approximately 2 weeks). A total of 392 people began the survey. The vast majority (90%) of responses were from the first two days of data collection.
Not all participants answered every sales statistics question, so the “totals” for each question are typically less than 392, and fluctuate from question to question.
Survey completions by date
Who completed the survey?
What do you sell?
Who do you typically sell to?
More people in this sales statistics survey sold to businesses (total of 242 people) than sold to consumers or a mix of both. Selling a mix of products and services was the most common sell type (149 people) followed by selling services alone (135 people). The most typical respondent sold services to businesses (100 people, or 27% of the total).
The sales process
Sales Statistics Q4. Approximately what percent of initial prospects turn out to be a good fit for your offering?
Responses to this question peaked at around the middle option, with 33% of people saying 50% of initial prospects are a good fit. 289 out of the total 381 (75%) said that either 25%, 50%, or 75% of their initial prospects are a good fit for their offering.
Sales Statistics Q5. Why do stronger opportunities most commonly fall apart? (Rank in order of frequency – 1 being most frequent, and 5 being least frequent)
Budget was identified as the biggest reason deals fall apart. 55% of people listed this as either the first- or second-most common reason their stronger opportunities falling apart. Rapport with prospect was cited as the least common reason; with about 62% of participants ranking this reason 4th or 5th.
Q7. Approximately how many leads have you reached out to in the past year (since March, 2017)?
The most common responses to this question were 100 and 250 leads reached out to in the past year. 41% of survey responders selected one of these two options. 15% of people reported reaching out to 1,000 or more leads.
Sales Statistics Q8. Approximately what percent of your leads are inbound vs. outbound?
It is more common for sales to be primarily outbound (55%) than primarily inbound (27%). Sales Statistics Q17. It is easier/harder to sell today than it was five years ago.
Q18. It is easier/harder to get in front of new prospects than it was five years ago. 53% of respondents found it either harder or much harder to sell versus five years ago. That percentage rises to 61% (194/316) of respondents if you exclude those who answered “don’t know.” Only 52, or 14%, believed it is easier or much easier to sell than it was 5 years ago.
48% thought it was harder or much harder to get in front of respondents than it was 5 years ago. This proportion is 54% (176/327) if you exclude the 38 who reported they “don’t know.”
Sales Statistics Q20. “_____________ is the most effective sales tool I have at my disposal.”
Q20. “Other” responses visualizedA majority of respondents selected either email or phone (59%). A noticeable proportion also selected something “other” than the options listed.
Conversations with Prospects
Sales Statistics Q9: When I’m in front of a prospect, I (Select all that apply):
Sales Statistics Q3. How do you typically open your sales phone calls? I typically open calls with:By far, the most popular response was “ask questions to determine…” (87%).
“Is this a good time” was the most common selection among the options listed (31%), but many people also selected “other.”
Q24: How consistently do you ask for referrals from clients? I ask for referrals:
About 46% people responded that they never or rarely ask for referrals. On the other end of the spectrum, about 30% ask for referrals every day or with every person they are in front of.
Sales Statistics Q12: How would you rate your satisfaction with your current job?
Job Satisfaction by selling audience:
Median job satisfaction was “Good” (4 out of 5). On a 1 to 5 scale, the mathematical average was 3.71 .
Job satisfaction by selling type:There were no real differences in job satisfaction between those who sold to business and those who sold to consumers or a mix.
Job Satisfaction by Hours Spent on Sales-Related Activities:There were also no job satisfaction differences depending on whether people sold products or services.
Job satisfaction differs rather noticeably depending on how many hours a day the person spends on sales-related activities. As shown in the bar graph above, there is a notable jump in job satisfaction between 3 hours and 4 hours. People who spend 3 hours or less on sales-related activities have an overall average job satisfaction level of 3.45 (out of 5), while people who spend 4 or more hours a day on sales-related activities have job satisfaction of 3.8. Significant difference.
Sales Statistics Q21: I left my last sales job due to ____________.
Excluding those who report never yet having left a sales job (27% of respondents), the most common response was “better opportunity” (33% of the total, after excluding the “never left” participants).
Another sizable proportion also said there was an “other” reason they left their last sales job. “Management” and “Company culture” were both cited more often than “compensation.” 5% of respondents were let go from their last sales job.
Sales Statistics Q22: Please rate the importance of the following in selecting a sales job (scale from 1 to 5):
All of these factors were rated as important – on average, between “somewhat important” (3) to “extremely important” (5). Company culture and management effectiveness were rated as the most important, while base compensation was rated significantly lower (significant difference).
Perceptions of Salespeople
Q14: Who do you consider to be trustworthy?
12% of respondents checked off “Salesperson” as a profession they consider trustworthy. “Salesperson” was rated the third lowest among these professions, better than advertising agent yet slightly lower than banker or lawyer.
Sales Statistics Q23: Write in three words to describe the average buyer’s perceptions of salespeople.
Full list of words that were written in more than one time (and frequencies)
Top performers vs. Others
Identification of “Top Performers”
Q10: Last year, I:
Sales Statistics Q11: Over the past three years, on average, I:In total, 88 people were performing above their benchmark in the past year. This is 24% of the total (or 28%, if you only consider people who didn’t answer “N/A.”)
Crosstabs: Exceeded quota last year x Exceeded quota past 3 years95 people (or 34% of all people who did not select “N/A”), exceeded their quota on average over the past 3 years.
61 people (22%) met or exceeded their quota last year, and for the past 3 years. These are considered “top performers,” and contrasted with the other respondents who just met, or missed their quotas for either of these time periods. 71 are considered “missing” on the performance variable if they did not answer either the “quota last year” question or the “quota for past 3 years” question. They are not included in the following analyses. About 20% of the survey takers are classified as “top performers.”
No, selling products, services, or a mix is not related to performance level. Among people who sell products, 22% are top performers; among people who sell services, 19% are top performers, and among those who sell a mix, 19% are top performers. So there are very similar levels of performance in all three categories. (Non-significant contrast).
Are there more top performers among those who sell products vs. services?
Are there more top performers among those who sell to businesses vs. consumers?
No, there were pretty much equal levels of performance in all three categories. 21% of those who sell to consumers were top performers, vs. 19% of those who sell to businesses, and 18% of those who sell a mix. (Non-significant contrast).
Main results: Top performers vs. others on key questions
Sales Statistics Q9: When I’m in front of a prospect, I:
The only notable difference in strategy here is on “pitching”: 7% of top performers report doing this, vs. 19% of others (significant difference). There were no real differences in convincing; and asking questions was very popular among top performers and others. (No significant difference for the latter two).
Sales Statistics Q24: How consistently do you ask for referrals from clients? I ask for referrals:
Top performers ask for referrals more consistently than non-top performers. Significant difference. About 47% of top performers ask for referrals consistently (every day, or with every person they are in front of), versus 26% of non-top performers. Non-top performers were much more likely to report asking for referrals “never” or “rarely.”
Sales Statistics Q6: Which of these, if any, do you waste the most time of your day performing?
Top performers and others differ in what tasks they find wastes most of their time during the day. While they spend a similar amount on CRM and paperwork, top performers are much less likely to note “surfing the web” as a main activity they waste time on (12% of top performers, vs. 24% of non-top performers). Instead, they tend to spend more time on driving to meetings (25% of top performers selected this vs. 12% of non-top performers). Significant difference.
Q16: How many hours per work day are you actually completing sales-related activities (prospecting, sales meetings, presentations, proposal work, sales followup, etc…)?
Sales Statistics Q16 (continued)Top performers tend to spend more hours per day on actual sales activities. Significant difference. 18% of top performers said they spend 3 hours or less per day on actual sales activities. In contrast, 39% of non-top performers said they spend 3 hours a day on sales activities.
Q25: How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “I feel more distracted by technology and the pace of life today than 5 years ago.”
Top performers were more likely than others to strongly agree with this statement (34% vs. 25%); but they were also more likely to strongly disagree with the statement (15% vs. 6%). Therefore, there is no significant overall pattern relating performance to distraction. No significant difference.
Sales Statistics Q13: Your buyers typically think of you as (Select all that apply):
Top performers were more likely to report being seen as “an expert in your field (51% of top performers vs. 37% of others). They were less likely to be seen as a vendor (8% of top performers, vs. 24% of others) or as a salesperson (7% of top performers vs. 20% of others). All 3 of these contrasts significant.
Top performers and non-top performers were just about equally likely to report being seen as a trusted advisor (66% vs. 64%). No significant difference.
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About the Author Marc Wayshak
Marc is is the best-selling author of three books on sales and leadership, including the highly acclaimed titles Game Plan Selling, The High-Velocity Sales Organization and his forthcoming book, Sales Conversations, Mastered.
Marc is a contributor to Inc, HubSpot, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Huffington Post Business. He also hosts a popular YouTube channel on sales strategy with over 103,000 subscribers.
Marc helps thousands of people his data-driven, science-based approach to selling that utilizes all the best tools available to sales organizations today.