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How Sales Orgs Can Sustain Growth Through Unrelenting Disruption

May 17, 2022

Contributor: Ava McCartney

Building an adaptable sales organization delivers and supports a highly tailored and situational approach to customer buying and decision-making.

In short:

  • Sales organizations and their sellers are living in a world of extreme deal variability, one where current strategies and tactics are proving unsustainable.
  • Gartner has developed a solution that not only sustains sales efforts but can increase sales performance by as much as 20%.
  • To cultivate an adaptable and high-performing sales organization, focus on three key areas: customer engagement, customer understanding and your operating model.

Constant change is overwhelming today's sellers and undermining sales effectiveness in the process. In response, sales leaders have sought to provide greater support and direction, but up until this point, their efforts have not delivered as planned.

In the opening keynote at Gartner’s CSO & Sales Leader Conference, Alice Walmesley Director, Advisory, and Scott Collins, Managing Vice President at Gartner, guided the audience through why and how to become an adaptable sales organization in today’s unpredictable environment. 

Download now: How to Give Your Sales Team a Commercial Advantage

“This new world of extreme deal variability isn’t just exhausting,” said Collins. “It also feels unsustainable, because we’re all relying on predictable growth in an environment of unpredictable change. We’ve found a solution that not only sustains sales efforts in uncertain times, but [also] simultaneously increases sales performance by as much as 20%.”

The old model is broken

In the 2022 Gartner Seller Motivation Study, 88% of sellers said that in their jobs, they are frequently required to respond to unexpected changes

“In a world where the ‘next best action’ for any given deal is highly situational, specific not only to that particular opportunity but to that particular opportunity at that particular moment, advising reps to ‘follow the buying journey’ or ‘consult the sales playbook’ will almost certainly prove to be the wrong next step… because they can’t sufficiently capture the increasingly diverse reality of any given deal at any given moment,” said Walmesley. 

How to cultivate an adaptable sales organization

Sales leaders looking to sustain growth should rethink their current efforts across three dimensions: customer understanding, customer engagement and the organization’s operating model. This requires replacing a one-size-fits-all approach with a highly tailored and situational one.

In their presentation, Walmesley and Collins laid out how to adapt for customer relevance rather than just seller ease. 

Customer understanding

“Our goal is to develop as granular an understanding of customers’ buying actions as possible in order to give sellers a far clearer understanding of buying dynamics they otherwise can’t see,” said Walmesley. “But in a variable world, that means far more than simply mapping out a series of buying activities.” To do so:

  1. Supplement the buying journey with the information journey. Ask yourself: 
    1. What information are our customers most likely to encounter? From where? 
    2. What questions does all that information generate? 
    3. Where will information overwhelm, cause confusion or undermine customer confidence?
  2. Take stock of the positive and negative emotions — that is to say, the emotional journey — customers experience throughout the information journey.
  3. Interrogate the interpersonal dynamics that play out across a wide range of customer stakeholders who move in and out of the purchase process.

Technologies to fuel success include:

  1. Customer sentiment tracking
  2. Customer engagement tracking
  3. Conversion intelligence
  4. Pipeline data

Customer engagement

Nuanced customer understanding begets customer engagement. Take three tactical steps to engage customers in a more relevant manner:

  1. In lieu of relying on sales rep activities to track deal progress, use customer verifiers. These are specific, objective and observable customer behaviors designed to accurately track a customer buying group’s progress along a purchase journey.
  2. Use buyer enablement to take customers by the hand and guide them, step by step, through their complex buying process in a way increases their confidence about large-scale purchase decisions.
  3. Employ Sense Making to help buyers organize, prioritize and analyze the information they’ve encountered so as to increase customer confidence. 

Operating model

A new operating model should establish clear rules for effective cross-functional communication. Although we’ve made progress on improving the handoff from digital to in-person actions, we haven’t done nearly as good a job with the reverse. To do so, sales and marketing must collaborate to create a unified commercial engine. You can support this with:

  • An integrated revenue tech stack 
  • Communal data shared across the entire commercial org 
  • Revenue intelligence solutions 
  • Intelligence-led decisions

“With today’s technology — and even more so with tomorrow’s — we can do more, see more and predict more than ever before, allowing us… to provide reps the quality of information they’ll need to adapt their engagement approach to constantly changing customer contexts,” Walmesley concluded. 

For a full recap of this keynote, watch the webinar.

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