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The 5 Biggest Opportunities for B2B Sales Growth in 2019 Data-backed strategies are likely to have the greatest impact on your success.

By Mike Schultz

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Monty Rakusen | Getty Images

There are many ways to drive sales growth -- from planning and sales-skills training to sales enablement and operations. With numerous options, it's hard to know which strategies are likely to have the greatest impact on your specific business' success.

Each sales organization is unique. My company, RAIN Group, looks for commonalities and trends that business owners can use to advance their goals. Our Center for Sales Research uncovered five of the biggest opportunities for B2B sales growth in 2019, backed by data gathered from surveys, benchmark reports, white papers, research briefs, articles and best-selling books.

1. Embrace value selling.

Many industries have experienced a massive shift from transaction-based selling to value-based selling. Up until the last few years, many companies' brands and individual sellers' relationships were enough to sustain and grow sales. The product or brand would attract buyers, and sellers would foster relationships, taking orders when buyers initiated a purchase. Sales grew even when sellers were reactive.

Today's sales climate is drastically different. Competition is fierce, and copycats are quick to replicate product and service innovations. It's more difficult than ever for brands to differentiate themselves in the market.

You might think this has driven down prices, allowing the lowest-priced provider to win more sales. However, we've found the opposite is true. It's not the provider with the lowest price who's winning the sale but the provider who demonstrates the greatest value.

Related: What Do Modern B2B Customers Want? It's More Complex Than You Think.

The No. 1 factor separating sales winners from second-place finishers is that winners bring new ideas and perspectives to buyers. Yet many sellers aren't delivering this value. Buyers report more than half of their meetings with sellers aren't valuable.

This represents a huge opportunity for the sellers who educate their buyers and lead with a value-selling approach.

2. Invest in effective sales-skills training.

According to our research, only 17 percent of companies rank their sales training as effective. Top-performing sales organizations -- those with higher win rates, the ability to charge premium prices and a greater likelihood of achieving sales goals -- are nearly twice as likely to offer effective training. They're also nearly twice as likely to report a strong investment in sales training.

If you want to join their ranks (and if you're reading this article, you do), your team must master essential sales skills that will enable them to consistently find and win new business. The results pay dividends for companies willing to invest in effective sales training.

Related: Take Your Sales Skills to the Next Level With These 5 Simple Steps

3. Grow your existing accounts.

This one seems obvious. It's easier and less costly to generate meetings when you market and sell to your current and previous clients. These groups also are more likely to want to hear your ideas and collaborate with you.

In fact, 77 percent of those who participated in RAIN Group's agree that making phone calls to existing accounts is an effective prospecting technique. (It was the No. 1 prospecting tactic across all respondents.) Additionally, 61 percent of the top-performing sales organizations agree its sellers are effective at maximizing sales to existing clients.

But these top performers represent only the top 20 percent of companies. Within the remaining 80 percent, just 32 percent of respondents agreed their sellers maximize sales to existing accounts. The 80/20 rule holds: The opportunity is there.

Related: What Really Drives Sales Growth and Repeat Business?

4. Develop sales managers.

Sales managers play a crucial role in helping sellers become as effective as possible. Yet many sales managers are too busy to spend time with sales staff, helping them win deals and stay focused. Instead, these managers are tied up recruiting and hiring new sales talent, analyzing sales forecasts and setting quotas.

When sales managers do have the time, they don't have the skills needed to effectively coach and develop sellers. Our research shows that 66 percent of companies don't believe their managers have the skills needed to manage and coach sellers.

Related: Why More Sales Leaders Are Focusing on Sales Coaching

Your sales managers must be equipped to motivate sellers day in and day out, hold sellers accountable, help sellers build sales and account plans or coach them to win important deals. If they're not doing those things, you're likely leaving opportunities on the table to grow your pipeline, increase your win rate and grow sales.

Make sure your sales managers are focused on the right things.

5. Build goal and action plans.

If you're serious about growing B2B sales in 2019, you need to define what that growth is.

What number are you targeting? What are the targets for individual sellers? For account managers? What percentage of them do you expect to hit target, exceed target and fall short of target? How will you hit that target? How will you monitor your progress?

Sales leaders and individual contributors need to be clear on these milestones and how you'll get there together. Develop goal and action plans (organizational and individual) with yearly, quarterly, monthly and weekly goals and actions. You can create and monitor your progress using a goal-setting worksheet. On an individual level, your sales managers can use this plan to coach sellers and hold them accountable.

Related: 16 Actions to Take to Achieve Any Goal

You don't need to focus on all five of these opportunities to grow your sales in 2019. Pick one that aligns with your organization's goals and concentrate on mastering that opportunity before you move on to the next. Incorporating just one of these is sure to improve your sales results and make a difference in your company's overall success.

Mike Schultz

President of RAIN Group

Mike Schultz is a bestselling author of Rainmaking Conversations, Insight Selling, Virtual Selling: How to Build Relationships, Differentiate, and Win Sales Remotely, and Not Today: The 9 Habits of Extreme Productivity. He is Director of the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research, and President of RAIN Group, a Top Sales Training Company that delivers award-winning results through in-person and virtual sales training, coaching, and reinforcement. He and RAIN Group have helped hundreds of thousands of salespeople, managers, and professionals in more than 75 countries transform their sales results and unleash their sales potential.

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