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Cascading Effects of Virtual Selling on Sales Operations

by Dave Egloff  |  June 24, 2020  |  Submit a Comment

Recently, I wrote a blog titled “3 Prerequisites to Virtual Selling Success”, which offered Chief Sales Officers three recommendations to improve sales execution while their sellers are bound by travel restrictions.  Building off of that topic, I’m shifting the focus to heads of sales operations and other stakeholders influencing sales force deployment.

Heads of sales operations will need to adapt as we enter the virtual selling era – that’s to say a “new normal” where selling will either be:

  • Primarily through remote or digital engagements, or
  • Far more balanced between virtual and in-person interactions

Sales analytics, seller capacity and territory design are three areas where virtual selling will have an impact on sales planning and design.

Sales Analytics

Analytical assessments have become a significant part of how sales operations contribute to sales strategy and planning.  Traditional descriptive metrics focus on describing what has happened, whereas diagnostic analytics help explain why things happened, and predictive analytics suggest what may happen next.

Heads of sales operations should prepare to generate new insights to improve sales planning and coaching by answering questions like:

  • How has sales performance changed as sellers rely more on virtual sales engagements?
  • Are seller struggles isolated to specific sales teams, product lines, customer segments, etc.?
  • Which sales activities correlate to virtual selling success?

Seller Capacity

Most sellers are contending with travel restrictions or limitations.  Plus, in a June survey, 23% of CSOs report plans to permanently shift field sales to virtual sales roles – 36% of CSOs remain uncertain about their plans.  If sellers aren’t going to travel as much, their capacity for other activities will increase.

As seller capacity expands, sales operations must reexamine sales force deployment strategies as well as their coverage ratios – i.e., the number of accounts assigned to each seller.   Decreasing travel should allow for expanding coverage ratios, which improves efficiency and reduces the costs of sales. 

Territory Design

The traditional sales territory design approach was to have sales operations geo-cluster accounts to limit the travel burden on sellers.  As sellers rely more on virtual selling, reducing travel may no longer be the most important criterion for territory designs.

Instead of focusing on geographic location, other criteria – like the market opportunity, customer type, buyer preferences, etc. – may be used to improve territory designs and seller assignments.

The rapid prevalence of virtual selling has certainly surprised most of us.  Now that it is here, most organizations will need to alter their sales planning and deployment strategies accordingly.  Sales operations should play an important role in the evolution provided they adapt as well.

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Dave Egloff
Senior Director
1 years at Gartner
20 years IT Industry

Dave Egloff is a Senior Director, Analyst in the Gartner for Sales Leaders practice. His current work focuses on key initiatives in sales strategy, sales operations and sales compensation. Read Full Bio

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