The top traits that B2B buyers value in salespeople do not always align with what sales managers look for when hiring, with 42% of buyers valuing active listening but just 26% of sales managers valuing this trait. So finds a recent report [download page] from LinkedIn that explores what defines a top-performing sales team.
In the survey of more than 500 buyers and 500 salespeople, active listening was cited as the #1 trait that buyers value in salespeople (42%) with problem-solving at #2 (38%). Other top traits included confidence at #3 (38%), relationship building at #4 (34%) and oral communications at #5 (27%). All these traits make for mutually-valuable calls between buyers and salespeople – a practice common among top B2B salespeople.
However, when comparing the characteristics that sales managers look for in their hires, a gap emerges between the teams that sales managers are building versus the qualities buyers really want. Granted, many of the top traits listed above were also highly valued by sales managers – problem-solving ranked high at #1 (34%), as did relationship building at #2 (33%), and confidence at #4 (29%).
However, not only does active listening rank 7 places lower among sales managers, but this is the largest gap of any skill between what buyers and sellers value, despite it being buyers’ #1 priority. Indeed, earlier research from Merkle found that salespeople being more interested in selling than listening was buyers’ biggest challenge with vendor research.
Separately, while industry expertise (23%) ranked #8 among desired traits for buyers, it did not make the top 10 among sales managers, cited by just 15%.
The report highlights many other traits that buyers expect in salespeople if they are to consider a brand, and responses suggest that it pays off for salespeople to do their homework. Buyers are more likely to consider a brand when a salesperson demonstrates a clear understanding of the buyer’s business needs (56%), has a clear understanding of the buyer’s role in the decision-making process (51%), provides personalized communication (47%) and targets appropriate people at a company (43%).
Traits of Top Performers
Interestingly, responses from salespeople indicate that top performers tend to receive better leads from marketing. Half (49%) of top-performing sales respondents described their marketing leads as excellent, while just 27% of their counterparts did. That said, the report does point out the chicken-or-egg nature of this statistic, given that top performers could simply have more success in converting leads to sales.
When top-performing salespeople spend time with their managers, they are more likely to spend this time in training (33% compared to 26% of their counterparts) and are also more likely to receive training from an outside sales expert (46% vs. 38%).
The Changing State of Sales
The outbreak of COVID-19 has had a demonstrable immediate impact on sales teams, with various trends emerging in salespeople’s day-to-day work. Around three-quarters (77%) of respondents are holding more virtual meetings, with a further 44% anticipating a decrease in responsiveness to outreach and an equal share reporting that customers’ sales cycles have increased.
Read the full report here.
About the Data: The results are based on Q4 2019 surveys of 507 salespeople and sales managers from the United States who primarily work in B2B sales and 502 business decision makers from the U.S. who have influence over purchasing decisions at B2B companies. Questions about the coronavirus impact were fielded in March to 660 sales professionals and business leaders from LinkedIn’s VisionCritical Advisor Community and in April to 511 North American sales professionals also members of that community.