Today’s post is by Kevin Temple, who leads the Enterprise Sales Group and is a pioneer in the development and application of agile methodologies to enterprise sales. Formerly, as VP of sales for Cadence Design Systems, he used the underlying principles of agile selling to increase revenue by 30 percent and deal size by a factor of five. After leaving Cadence, he founded one of the top 20 sales consulting and training firms in the country.
One of the joys of our business is that, each day, we get to work with some of the smartest sales and business leaders on the planet.
While our job is to train their sales teams, we often learn as much as we teach. With this in mind, there are a handful of themes that gained traction in 2016 that we expect will have an even greater impact on enterprise selling in 2017.
Prediction #1: More salespeople will focus on the skill of differentiating their offering. Customers are more empowered than ever. Buyers are in control – and they know it. This isn’t new, but it’s accelerating at an increasing rate. The implications are more and more clear, with some enterprise sales leaders reporting that buyers are as much as 90 percent of the way through their journey before they ever talk with a sales rep. Data sheets and solution briefs are no longer starting points for sales conversations, and the salespeople who fail to adapt to this dynamic are simply not going to make their numbers. Salespeople need to become masters at reframing the problem set to differentiate their offering in the face of often unknown competition.
Prediction #2: CEOs will increasingly abandon incremental changes in favor of big shifts. A 2016 study by KPMG says that four out of 10 CEOs expect to be running significantly transformed companies in as little as three years. Our clients tell us market, competitive, regulatory, and pricing challenges are forcing them to adapt quickly – and that leaders no longer have the luxury of time to see how their strategies play out. In short: the race will be won by those who adapt and move fast.
Prediction #3: Tech spending will slow and the fight for budget will intensify. Gartner predicts sluggish growth in IT spending through 2020. Gartner also predicts that, in 2017, the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO – yet another indication that technology spend is shifting from the IT organization to lines of business. Sales organizations will need to adapt to smaller budgets by getting stronger at justifying the need for their solution. And they will need to develop the skills to navigate across customer organizations, new buying stakeholders, and budget centers.
Prediction #4: There will be more turnover of senior executives as CEOs look to spark growth. The average tenure of a CMO in Silicon Valley is about 18 months, far less than for B2C companies. We’re betting the axe won’t be limited to marketing, with leaders in sales, IT, product development, and other areas on a short leash as well. Sales professionals are used to the perform-or-perish model in their own careers, but will need to learn to adapt faster to a changing landscape of buyers, competitors, and influencers.
Prediction #5: New roles and functions will become the locus of power and budget in the pursuit of growth. Old titles and portfolios are giving way to a new C-suite populated with executives responsible for revenue, digital transformation, privacy, and security. Old customer entry points and buying processes are likewise being replaced by new centers of power and budget, which will vary from customer to customer. Sales professionals will need to become adept at understanding and managing the new buying landscape.
Prediction #6: Sales leaders will demand even more from salespeople. It’s true – the goalposts have always moved – so why is this a prediction? We see a new urgency driven in part by the need to capitalize on recent investments in sales force automation, sales performance management, sales enablement, and related technologies. Our clients are telling us they will be placing more emphasis on change management and skills development to drive more productivity and effectiveness from their teams.