A Gartner, Inc. poll of 38 sales leaders on 14 April 2020 showed that 38% of organizations have already cut sales operations budgets and another 14% plan to cut their budgets in the next three months due to the coronavirus. As a result, sales operations leaders must adjust quickly to preserve their teams’ productivity and to anticipate the changing needs of their sales organizations.
“There is a great deal of uncertainty regarding the time it will take for businesses to return to their pre-COVID-19 operating levels,” said Steve Rietberg, senior director analyst in the Gartner Sales practice. “In the meantime, sales operations leaders should bear the brunt of softening demand and supply chain disruptions and confront the most pressing impacts caused by the initial wave of changes the pandemic presents.”
The four impact areas that Gartner recommends that sales operations leaders focus on include:
Impact Area 1: Sales Operations Professionals
Whether mandated by the government or the organization, many sales operations professionals are seeing an unprecedented amount of remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But unlike the sellers they support, sales operations professionals are less accustomed to working remotely.
“The first step for sales operations leaders is to recognize the productivity and engagement challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a remote workforce,” said Dave Egloff, vice president analyst in the Gartner Sales practice. “Next, they must formalize a work from home policy for sales operations and develop strategies to virtualize communities and promote active engagement among sales operations team members and their stakeholders.”
Impact Area 2: Forecast Uncertainty
Instability in supply and demand patterns has affected buyer confidence. Sales leaders are less able to make confident decisions based on their usual leading indicators, resulting in greater forecast uncertainty.
“Sales forecasts are sales operations leaders’ predictions of future performance based on qualitative and quantitative inputs. Unfortunately, neither data nor people’s perceptions can be fully trusted in these times,” said Mr. Rietberg. “For now, leaders must identify and track markers that signal the worsening or improvement of supply and demand in order to provide strategic insights on how these factors drive forecast changes.”
Impact Area 3: Sales Analytics
Sales analytics are used to inform an organization’ decision making. These decisions are based on how specific metrics are performing against targets. However, the coronavirus pandemic now means expectations for performance need to be revisited. Sales operations leaders must identify the indicators of change and — working with sales leadership — adjust the targets for their key performance indicators accordingly. Sales analytics programs need to adapt to the new state of normal during the pandemic crisis and its aftermath in order to deliver relevant insight to the organization.
Impact Area 4: Costs of Sales
Managing the cost of sales is a function of revenue and expenses. This pandemic has most organizations anticipating revenue declines, which can quickly lead to forced expense cuts. As pandemic impacts continue, sales operations leaders should work with sales leadership and finance to help close late-stage opportunities and identify other options for reducing expenses and generate revenue.
Additional information on what sales operations leaders should be doing amid the coronavirus outbreak is available to Gartner for Sales Leaders clients in the report "Leading Sales Operations Through the Coronavirus Pandemic."
Learn more about how to lead organizations through the disruption of coronavirus in the Gartner coronavirus resource center, a collection of complimentary Gartner research and webinars to help organizations respond, manage, and prepare for the rapid spread and global impact of COVID-19.
About Gartner for Sales Leaders
Gartner for Sales Leaders provides heads of sales and their teams with the insights, advice and tools they need to address mission-critical priorities amid mounting pressures to drive growth through new and existing customers. With extensive qualitative and quantitative research, Gartner for Sales Leaders helps sales teams combat commoditization and price-based purchasing, develop critical manager and seller skills, elevate the value of sales interactions, unlock existing growth potential, and optimize sales force enablement. Follow news and updates from the Gartner Sales Practice on Twitter and LinkedIn using #GartnerSales.