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We have just undertaken our third Mood of the Sales Leader survey, which captures insights from NZ sales leaders around performance, challenges and expectations for the year ahead. Along with the expected findings, surveys always throw up surprises, and this year was no different.

What was the biggest challenge faced by NZ sales leaders in 2019? According to our latest Mood of the Sales Leader report, it was competition. What is the biggest risk to sales performance in 2020? Once again, the survey showed it is competition. View the full report 

It has been clear since we released our first report in 2018 that revenue growth has declined overall, and for many in the year ahead, they are predicting another reduction. 80 percent of companies planned to grow in 2019, yet only 60 percent did, and those ones grew less than previous years.

Sales leaders told us that finding good people is a constant challenge, concern about the government is higher than ever, and also that as an industry it appears we are sitting on the fence about implementing disruptive technology, yet we ourselves are being disrupted.

We learned that only 3 percent of NZ sales leaders do not believe that incentives are valuable for salespeople. What? There are many thought leaders around the world debating if we should be incentivising salespeople. Banks are quickly distancing themselves from incentives and many other industries are challenging it. But the NZ sales leader tribe has spoken, and they believe. One problem, however, is that 28 percent are also telling us that their plans do not work.

For the record, at Indicator we believe in incentives in some circumstances, but obviously they must have an impact on motivation, behaviours and activity. The key thing around incentives is if you are going to use them, make sure you are clear about the activity you want them to drive, focus on incentives to take performance from good to great, and make sure you uncover every single possibility that may cause an upset in your plan.

As always, one of the key areas to uncover is recruitment. This is without a doubt one of the most important things sales leaders do. A third of all sales leaders are telling us they are planning to grow their teams in 2020. That is a reduction from the last couple of years, but it is still a big number, and the challenge of finding good people is harder than ever. The best will go to the best. Think about that for your team and company, the best salespeople want to work for the best managers. These are the managers that coach their sales teams, the ones that run great sales meetings (73 percent of you said your sales meetings added value, which I would seriously challenge) and the ones that build the best sales culture.

Another surprise for us in this year’s survey is that since last year we did not see any movement in the use of technology. Most of us are using a customer relationship management (CRM) system, however the majority are using it in a basic sense. We use notes and look at past emails, but we are sitting back and taking a wait and see approach in regards to so-called disruptive technology, or more advanced usage of CRM and marketing tools. The biggest shift for the sales industry in technology in the last couple of years has been the coming together of sales and marketing. For those that are trying to beat the competitors, tools that can help find and engage with your clients and prospects may be the one difference you need.

The Impact of competition in our country is that the number of companies looking to export is on the rise. Businesses already playing in international markets are looking to take on new markets and there are plenty looking at international positions for the first time. If we find too much ‘red ocean’ here, then bigger markets are appealing.

So if the number one thing in 2020 is to beat your competition, then we better start thinking about how we are going to do that, because the problem now is that doing the same thing as last year won’t deliver us the same results.


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