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by Alex Palmer | December 18, 2014
While incentives often put the focus on inspiring top sellers to break their own records, new research finds that improvements among the "frozen middle" of average sellers can garner major results. According to the study from Accenture and CSO Insights, incentivizing those making middling sales to improve performance by 5 percent can lead to a 3.2 percent increase in total revenue.

The report, titled "Powering Profitable Sales Growth," drew on insight from a number of sales executives in a range of industries, and found that 59 percent of sales reps expect to achieve their quota in 2014. This is a drop from 2013, when 67 percent said the same. More concerning, while 72 percent of companies are raising revenue targets by 5 percent or more, just 14 percent of sales executives expect their team can achieve this goal. Additionally, sales reps report that they spent just one third (34 percent) of their time selling -- a drop from 36 percent in 2013 and 41 percent in 2011.

Drawing on these findings, Accenture offers five "imperatives" for organizations looking to improve these sales challenges, summarized by the acronym SPEED:

1) Spend optimization: directing money where it is most likely to result in profitable growth
2) Price and profit optimization: using analytics to provide members of a sales team with the tools needed to strengthen their negotiations
3) Execution and operations excellence: the provision of effective sales processes and technology
4) Enablement of sales talent: helping sales reps to improve their performance while hiring new talent with the highest potential for success
5) Digital selling and dynamic channels: urging sales managers to create a front-office experience most likely to strengthen customer satisfaction and lead to loyalty over the long run

The complete "Powering Profitable Sales Growth" report can be found here.