Gartner Top CSO Priorities for 2020

Heads of sales are focusing on three key priorities to deliver on sales initiatives in 2020

At the Gartner CSO & Sales Leader Conference 2019 in Las Vegas, NV, Matt Dudek, Vice President, Gartner, says the Gartner 2019 Agenda Poll identified three priorities for chief sales officers (CSOs) in 2020: 

  • Sales manager effectiveness
  • Prospecting and early pipeline activities 
  • Account growth 

Promote sales manager effectiveness

The difficulty of finding and keeping great sellers in today’s tight labor market is shining a harsh light on management weaknesses. Ironically, as the economy and our organization’s growth improves, the issues sellers have with their managers becomes more visible.

The Gartner Global Labor Market Survey finds that while compensation is the top reason most sellers quit, almost as many sellers quit because they have a bad direct manager.

“Sellers aren’t just leaving because of the occasional ‘bad apple’ manager, they’re leaving because there is a whole orchard of bad managers,” said Dudek. 

On the flip side, great or even good managers help retain high-quality talent and help sellers onboard faster. Vital attributes of good managers include integrity, reliability, the availability to listen, demonstrated leadership and project management, and a firm understanding of sales today. Yet, these are just the start. 

Effective managers take three key actions to improve business outcomes:

  • Facilitate seller judgment to promote business ownership, encourage a network of collective team support and empower sellers to act. 
  • Increase team innovation to dig into deal-level challenges and insights, and allow for ideation for novel approaches to deals.
  • Provide meaningful, actionable coaching that creates ongoing dialogue and can be tailored for personalized development.

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Improve prospecting and early pipeline activities

“As CEOs focus on incremental, more-profitable growth, we’re hearing a lot more focus from CSOs on prospecting and early pipeline activities,” said Dudek. “But the stark truth is that sales teams reject 55% of marketing-qualified leads.”

Part of the problem lies in the differing perceptions between marketing and sales leaders about what makes a high-quality lead. Marketing often believes lead quantity is most important while sales believes the context around “why the lead is sales ready” is most important. 

Account managers surveyed not only adopt a ‘service-first’ mentality, but 88% believe that ‘above and beyond service’ is the surest way to ultimately drive growth

CSOs need to improve lead filtering and create feedback mechanisms to align sales and marketing efforts while removing inconsistencies.

Leading organizations use a series of filters, including fit-based, threshold-based and buying journey, to identify high-quality leads. This enables sales to focus on those leads most likely to convert and convert at higher margins as the customer is more focused on the size of the problem or opportunity than on the price of the higher solution. 

Support account growth

Most account managers struggle to drive growth, if for no other reason than they have a lot on their plate from customer service and support tasks to trying to grow accounts. Effectively, account managers have to be all things to all people.

“Mistakenly, the vast majority of account managers surveyed not only adopt a ‘service-first’ mentality, but 88% believe that ‘above and beyond service’ is the surest way to ultimately drive growth,” Dudek said. “While this does have a positive impact on retaining accounts, it has no impact on the likelihood of growing an account.”

When sellers provide customers with a unique, critical perspective, a vision for improving their business and the return on investment of the commercial relationship, they are more likely to grow that account. Gartner calls these activities “customer improvement.


This article is based on insights that are part of an in-depth collection of research, tools, templates and advice available to Gartner clients.


Gartner for Sales Leader clients can read the research reports Driving Growth Through Smarter Account Management and Retaining Sales Talent in a Tight Labor Market by Matt Dudek et Al.

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