CSOs and Sales Leaders Top Priorities for 2021

Discover what is top of mind for sales leaders in 2021

Sales executives must make sense of the external environment to confidently execute 2021 priorities

The onset of COVID-19 was marked by many operational shutdowns and travel restrictions aimed at curtailing its spread. Chief sales officers (CSOs) responded quickly to transition sales forces to selling remotely/virtually. Now, the question for CSOs is this: “Given protracted uncertainty, how do we move from responding to the crisis to planning for a recovery and renewal of our business in 2021?”

Download CSO Priorities Heading Into 2021

By clicking the "Continue" button, you are agreeing to the Gartner Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

Contact Information

All fields are required.

  • Step 2 of 3

    By clicking the "Continue" button, you are agreeing to the Gartner Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

    Company Information

    All fields are required.

    Optional Optional
  • Step 3 of 3

    By clicking the "Submit" button, you are agreeing to the Gartner Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

    In these challenging times, as CSOs assess how best to guide their organizations, they need to elevate their perspective from that of a leader of sellers to a leader of sales. In doing so, CSOs should transition from efforts aimed solely at improving the “buying from rep experience” to efforts aimed at improving the “buying experience” overall.

    Abhishek Sengupta

    Sr Specialist, Research

    Insights you can use

    According to the CSO Priorities Pulse Survey, two initiatives were identified as being the most critical to the sales organization's success in 2021. Developing frameworks for communicating these sales priorities to the C-suite and the broader sales force will be of the utmost importance to CSOs.

    Renewed Focus on New Customer Acquisition

    In the immediate aftermath of COVID-19-related disruptions, most sellers scrambled to close already advanced deals and doubled down on existing customers. While this seemed a reasonable response to the softening demand, sales organizations soon realized that existing customers couldn’t offset the anticipated revenue loss from new customers. 

    Sales leaders' expectations for where revenue growth would come from in calendar year 2020 in pre-COVID-19 times versus since. Pre-COVID-19 sales leaders expectated 66% existing customer growth and 34% new customers, and since COVID-19  they've expected 70% existing customers and 30% new customers.
    49% of sales leaders believer acceleration early pipeline and lead generation/management efforts are most criticial to the success of their organization over the next six months

    Sales needs an updated blueprint for customer acquisition in this new normal

    To address the challenges associated with COVID-19, Gartner suggests a three-pronged approach to tailor prospecting efforts to current market realities. Organizations can use commercial messaging to improve relevance of outbound communication, redeploy sales resources to relatively higher demand centers and assess the financial terms offered by competitors to prepare sellers with effective counter offers/counterpoints. 

    49% of sales leaders believer acceleration early pipeline and lead generation/management efforts are most criticial to the success of their organization over the next six months

    Enhancing Virtual Selling Capabilities

    As field sellers pivoted to engaging customers virtually, most organizations’ limitations in their virtual-selling capabilities became quickly apparent. More than half the respondents to Gartner's CSO Priorities Pulse Survey reported not being fully prepared to deliver similar value through virtual sales as they did through in-person interactions

    Sales leaders' level of preparedness to deliver the same level of value in virtual engagements as they did through in-person engagements before COVID-19 with 43% feeling fully prepared and 57% feeling partially prepared to unprepared.
    41% of sales leaders believe focusing enablement to support virtual selling or buying is most critical to the success of their organization over the next six months

    Enable Critical Seller Skills for Disruption and Recovery

    To lend focus to seller virtualization efforts, Gartner recommends focusing on two key pillars: sellers’ engagement with customers and sellers’ digital dexterity. Organizations can enable sellers’ virtual engagements by helping them to leverage social media to create and nurture relationships with prospects. Additionally, sellers should be coached to effectively design and execute virtual sales calls through proper call planning. To drive digital dexterity, relevant behaviors and mindsets should be modeled and communicated to sellers. 

    41% of sales leaders believe focusing enablement to support virtual selling or buying is most critical to the success of their organization over the next six months

    Questions about becoming a Gartner client?

    Testimonial

    How do we help tackle your most critical priorities?

    Kibo Bodoegaard, Vice President of Sales at Wilhelmsen Ships Service, shares how Gartner helps him tackle his core challenges through research and strategic advice from advisors.

    Gartner topic experts

    Gartner’s sales experts span the globe to support sales leaders with their most important initiatives, no matter where they are. Meet a few of our leaders.

    Brent Adamson headshot

    Brent Adamson
    Distinguished VP, Advisory

    Doug Bushee
    Sr Director Analyst

    Brian Cain
    Sr Principal, Advisory
    Scott Collins headshot

    Scott Collins
    VP, Team Manager
    Tom Cosgrove headshot

    Tom Cosgrove
    Sr Director, Advisory
    Matt Dudek headshot

    Matt Dudek
    VP, Team Manager

    Cristina Gomez
    Managing VP
    Shayne Jackson headshot

    Shayne Jackson
    Sr Director Analyst
    Rick Karlton headshot

    Rick Karlton
    Managing VP
    Danielle Mckinley headshot

    Danielle McKinley
    Director, Advisory
    Nick Toman headshot

    Nick Toman
    Group VP

    Gartner is a trusted advisor and an objective resource for 14,000+ organizations in 100+ countries.

    Gartner for Sales provides sales leaders with the insights, advice and tools they need to address their most critical priorities.