Chief sales officers (CSOs) must deliver significant revenue and performance growth each year. Yet the current environment makes this more and more difficult. Sales leaders look to talent, technology and strategy to help combat the challenging commercial landscape.
Ahead of Gartner CSO & Sales Leader Conference, September 17 – 19, 2019, in Las Vegas, NV, we asked Gartner experts to share the important considerations for sales leaders in the world of more — more information, more choice and more people.
In an increasingly complex B2B buying environment, CSOs struggle to deliver value through frontline sales. Many suppliers respond by investing in high-value information, yet the abundance of quality information also hinders customer decisions.
To support overwhelmed customers, we studied sales rep performance and found that customers perceive that sellers adopt one of three approaches to information as part of the sale. Our data tell us these approaches are not only statistically distinct but meaningfully different in terms of the likelihood that customers will successfully complete a high-quality, complex purchase — not because it’s a rep performance issue, but rather because their approach is no longer suited to supporting customer buying today.
Customers are most likely to make a high-quality, low-regret deal when they encounter a rep who takes a Sense Making approach. This approach helps instill buyer confidence in information and reduce skepticism toward the seller. Organizations pursuing highly sought after, high-quality, low-regret deals must therefore enable sellers to make sense of information for customers.
See Brent Adamson at his CSO & Sales Leader Conference sessions:
- Gartner Keynote: Escaping the Pain of Commercial Complexity
- Redefining the High-Performing Seller for the Information Era
- CSO Circle: Roundtable: Accelerating Sales’ Digital Proficiency
- Peer Perspective: Lessons in Sales Leadership
- Gartner Keynote: Closing Remarks — Your Next Bold Move
According to Gartner research, virtually all sales professionals cite the need to track performance against current goals as one of their top three reasons for accessing dashboards. But less than half of those same professionals are satisfied with their dashboards’ ability to do so. Choosing appropriate key performance indicators (KPIs) for sellers and for managers is a critical step in enabling sales teams to achieve strategic goals.
Sales managers need a comprehensive view of each seller so they can tailor coaching to maximize their sellers’ performance. To maximize sales effectiveness, sales operations must align KPIs with strategic goals and present those KPIs to managers and sellers in ways that lead to action. Doing this quickly requires them to leverage metrics already on hand, possibly in a new way.
See Steve Rietberg at his CSO & Sales Leader Conference sessions:
- Using Sales Operations to Arm Sales Managers for Success
- Ask the Expert: Best Practices in Sales Analytics
Gartner has seen an increasing number of inquiries from clients interested in using AI. Most look to AI techniques to augment or improve customer-facing processes. According to sales leaders surveyed in early 2018,, the top three motivations to start deploying AI were improved efficiency, cost reduction and revenue growth.
Notably, AI augments, not replaces, sales staff, and AI won’t absorb B2B sales jobs. By using current technologies, 40% of administrative sales work can be automated — a number that may rise to 47% with improved natural language processing (NLP).
The time gained through the automation of standard sales tasks presents sellers with more time to prospect and find new revenue. For B2B sales organizations in particular, Gartner identifies the three most relevant core AI classes:
- Decision support and augmentation: Provide insights, personalization, predictive analytics, recommendations (prescriptive analytics), machine learning (in conjunction with predictive and prescriptive analytics) and NLP
- Agents and virtual assistants: Communicate in natural language, through voice and text, and perform task management
- Process automation: Translate voice-to-text, image processing and content classification
See Ilona Hansen at her CSO & Sales Leader Conference sessions:
- Magic Quadrant for Fueling Your B2B Organization Through CRM Lead Management
- Using AI to Drive Growth
Communication to sales teams during times of change — which is all the time at most companies — can increase productivity by more than 300%. Often leaders approach change by:
- Gaining “buy in” from employees
- Keeping employees engaged
- Sharing the rationale for why change is necessary
- Rallying the team to rise to the occasion during challenging times
But Gartner research shows that this traditional approach produces suboptimal results. In some cases, it can create negative results. Instead, leaders must change their approach to communicating with the sales team to build the “capability” of their people. Gartner research indicates that this approach is the best way to overcome the likelihood of declining team performance during times of change to produce the results required to be successful.
See Rick DeLisi at his CSO & Sales Leader Conference session:
- Leading Sales Teams Through Change