Every year at InsideSales.com Labs, we dig through thousands of data points to identify how the world of sales has changed.

This year, we found technology has changed the way we sell -- so profoundly and permanently that companies that don’t adapt won’t survive.

Read on for our specific discoveries about salespeople, processes, systems, compensation, and winning strategies.

1. Sales Org Structures Are Changing

Sales organizations are restructuring themselves to reflect the growing trend of buyers doing their own research before connecting with sellers.

Our research showed the ideal sales organization structure includes an equal mix of inside sales representatives and outside sales professionals (50/50).

2. Inside Sales Is an Unstoppable Trend

Although most sales teams don’t have an 1:1 ratio of inside to outside sales reps, they are gradually working towards this goal. Forty-seven percent of sales professionals were outbound sales professionals in 2017, with 43 percent doing inbound sales.

3. This is the Year of the Sales Development Rep

As sales teams move toward specialization, the sales development role is becoming more important.

On average, there’s one sales development representative for every three sales account executives in a sales organization.

4. Sales Tech Spend Is Going Up

Our 2017 “State of Sales” report showed companies spend around $4,581 annually on technology per rep. This amount increased 22.0% from 2014 (after adjusting to exclude CRM).

5. Reps Use Around 5 Tools

The $4,581 covered an average of 5.2 categories of sales tools per rep. The top categories of sales tools were:

  • CRM
  • social prospecting
  • Presentations
  • pipeline management
  • data/list services

6. Reps Rate the CRM as the Most Inefficient System

Sales reps rate CRM software -- the foundational system of sales -- as the most frustrating and ineffective sales system. They only spend 18% of their time on the CRM; 9% of their time is devoted to managing CRM-related task in spreadsheets.

7. Email Is (Still) Key

Reps said email (82.1%), phone (76.5%), and web conferencing (74.7%) tools are the most effective and valuable. While sales acceleration technologies have the most potential, they were also the most underutilized.

8. Reps Don’t Spend Much Time Selling

Sales reps dedicate 35% of their time on revenue-generating activities, meaning most of their day isn’t spent selling.

9. Reps Need Better Time Management Skills

Blame a lack of time management skills for the above stat: Only 22% of sales reps use any kind of time management methodology. Those who do spend 19% more time selling than their peers.

10. Administrative Tasks Are a Huge Problem

Administrative tasks, such as dealing with internal policies and approvals (14.8%) and customer meetings (14.0%, required the most time, while training took up the least (3.9%).

11. And A.I. Is Slowly Automating Them

A.I. could make sales far more efficient -- but consumers don’t trust it yet. More than half have experienced it in their personal life, yet only 36% have ever used A.I. at work.

12. 40% of Sales Reps Aren’t Making Quota

If you’re thinking this doesn’t sound good for sales professionals trying to reach quota, you’re right. The average quota for an account executive is $793,566. Only 60.9% of salespeople achieve quota each year.

13. Successful Reps Have More Conversations

The sales reps who did reach their quota in 2017 had more meaningful conversations -- and that means phone calls. Here’s how InsideSales.com international director Martin Moran put it:

“European reps close deals 13.2% more often than their U.S. counterparts. Why? They have 12.2 phone calls per day vs. 10.6 for the U.S. That’s a whopping increase of 15.1%.”

14. Salespeople Make Good Money

If you’re looking for a profession with high earnings, look no further. The average base salary for inside sales AEs in the United States and Europe was $42,833 with an average on-target-earnings (OTE) of $96,299.

15. And SDR Salaries Aren’t Bad Either

Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) were not far behind with an average base of $43,499 and $83,484 OTE.

16. Be Prepared for Variable Compensation

Our State of Sales 2017 study showed the average base/variable compensation split was 47:53.

17. As Well as a Lot of Hard Work

AEs logged on average 34.5 emails and 30 phone calls per day. They typically have 11.9 meaningful conversations with prospects per day.

18. Email Dominates

We researched how people prefer to be contacted and found email led the pack in every category in the workplace, with 93% of respondents reporting they are likely to respond to an email.

19. Contrary to Popular Belief, People Still Listen to Voicemails

However, voicemail isn’t dead. Nearly 8 in 10 people say they are likely to respond to a voicemail message at work.

20. Direct Mail Still Works Too

Direct mail continues its comeback. Data shows direct mail is one of the top five of B2B sales communication technologies expected to grow this year.

Over half (66.1%) of respondents to our “State of Direct Mail” study said they were likely to respond to a direct mail piece, although only only 38.5% of companies use direct mail.

21. Most Sales Reps Think They’re Succeeding

Sales professionals typically see the glass half full. Optimism helps them stay resilient when they fail -- but the flip side is, they’re not always good judges of their own performance. According to a TOPO research report we reviewed, sales development representatives believe they perform an average of 15.5 touches per lead.

22. But That’s Not Quite Accurate

Our “Sales Cadence” report found differently -- most sales reps made only four contact attempts per lead, with most sending a single email. Many believe 12 is the optimal number of touchpoints.

Here’s to wrapping up another year. I hope you find some of this information useful to reaching your sales goals. If you have any questions or want to discuss our findings, catch me on LinkedIn and let’s talk.

Originally published Jan 31, 2018 8:30:00 AM, updated January 31 2018


Sales Trends