Seven Transformation Projects for 2019

With many organizations selling in fiscal years ending in December, this time of year represents a special challenge. How do sales leaders focus their energies on these shortest of time windows (What do I have to close this hour? What needs to get out of Legal this evening?) and at the same time reserve some mindshare for 2019 planning?

We have all been burned by waiting until January to worry about next year. It invariably ends up in setting quotas late, getting traction late, and a Q1 that starts the year behind goal. So to spark your thinking, we’ve culled the key issues from our 2018 research that deserve your attention. For more detail on each, we’ve linked to a select few of the nearly 100 blogs we published this year:

  1. Buyer Insights. Buyers want something different from sellers. While B2B buyers are not overtly negative about their salespeople, they aren’t impressed either. Buyers do not view sellers as resources to solve business problems. As a result, sellers are becoming less relevant to buyers. Buyers engage sellers late in the buying process and see few differences among their options. This results in an “Apathy Loop.” How complete is your customer and prospect data? What do your specific customers expect from your sellers?
  2. Sales Talent. There are ways to break out of the Apathy Loop. But most sales leaders believe they are going to need a different sales talent set to do it. Yet, there just hasn’t been enough energy around fixing this talent problem. Hiring hasn’t changed much. For talent to be a driver of sales success, the CRO/CSO needs to own the talent strategy. Does your sales organization own your talent strategy? Or is it a loose set of practices owned by others? Do you have the talent you need to succeed in the future?
  3. Onboarding. Of course, there is little point in hiring to a new vision and bringing a new seller profile into your organization if you are not onboarding effectively and efficiently. Sales organizations with effective onboarding are gaining two or more months of full productivity for every new hire. How recently have you updated your onboarding program? How are you measuring its success?
  4. Development. Once they’ve joined the team, sellers need consistent formal coaching and training for their ongoing development. And while there has been progress in formalizing sales coaching, it remains largely informal or left up to individual managers. The payoff from a formal approach remains significant and is surely worth a place in your 2019 plan. Do your leaders have the time, tools, processes and skills they need to coach?
  5. Sales Enablement. Those maturing their enablement functions know that as vital as training and coaching are, they do not make for complete enablement. Sellers also need to be armed with value messages and content, driven by a formalized content strategy, to fuel the perspective-driven methodologies which our research shows to be differentiating. Chances are enablement is relatively new to your organization, have you conducted a maturity assessment to help you consider where you stand across all of its elements?
  6. Sales Technology. No discussion of the planning would be complete without acknowledging technology. CRM remains a challenge for sales organizations. But the key is ensuring CRM adoption is coupled with a formal sales process. Additionally, CRM systems are increasingly being surrounded by complementary tools. On average, sales organizations are deploying ten such tools, with four more on the way. While offering great potential, many fall short as they are not supported with training and are not cleanly embedded into the sales process. How complete is your tech stack? How detailed is your tech roadmap for the next 12-18 months? What adoption do you have for the tools you have already invested in?
  7. Sales Operations. And as technologies become more numerous and sales processes more complex, there is a greater need for organizations to leverage their sales operations functions strategically. Historically the home of spreadsheets and reporting, sales operations is increasingly becoming the analytics center of the sales organization. Sales operations teams are most successful when driving their scope and will have increasing influence on how sales organizations adopt new AI tools and mine their data as an asset. What purpose does sales operations have within your sales organization? Are they spending their time continuing to tweak old issues like forecasting? Or new issues around AI and sales process?

Any one of these is a major investment of time and resources. It isn’t practical to chase them all. Sales leaders will need to decide which one or two have the opportunity to create the greatest impact in 2019.

As for CSO Insights, we are working on our 2019 plans, too. We will expand our coverage of Sales Operations and Technology next year and begin the year launching our 2019 World-Class Sales Best Practices survey. Look for the new survey in January, when you will have a chance to participate and get exclusive early access to the results.

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