Gartner has a perspective on the future of sales. Based on the recent and expedited trends caused by the pandemic, as well as shifts in buyer dynamics, commercial execution is transitioning.
The Future of Sales is the permanent transformation of organizations’ sales strategies, processes and allocation of resources, moving from a seller-centric to a buyer-centric orientation and moving from analog sales processes to hyper-automated, digital-first engagement with customers.
Undoubtedly, the future of sales is impacting how CSOs approach sales strategy and leadership. Gartner even sees many CSOs shift from being the leaders of sellers to being the leaders of selling. In other words, CSOs must not just lead the sales force but rather lead the enterprise to achieve commercial results.
There are even more dynamics at play. B2C buying preferences, as well as generational shifts in those leading buying decisions, are having a cascading and enduring impact on sales strategy. As my colleague, Craig Riley noted, “Digital buying, virtual selling and technological innovation have changed B2B sales. CSOs must create a buyer-centric go-to-market strategy that prioritizes information consistency across digital and human channels to ensure a low-effort, high-confidence buying experience.”
Strategies Need to Evolve
CSOs are not likely to follow a strategic plan that resembles pre-2019. There are just too many changes to B2B commerce to see legacy plans as still fit for this “new normal.” Buyers are changing – more likely, buyers have changed. Today’s buyers:
- Lead larger and more diverse internal stakeholder teams
- Try to make sense of an overwhelming amount of information
- Increasingly favor self-study, which cannibalizes their time spent with sellers
- Struggle with confident decision making
No one can wonder why selling is so hard. Buying is hard. So, what are CSOs to do? Progressive leaders are running right at buying challenges. At the heart of sales strategy and leadership is the priority of cultivating a buyer-centric GTM strategy.
As another reflection of how CSOs are re-prioritizing, Gartner observes that budget allocations are in flux. The allocation of spend just doesn’t look like it did 2 years ago. CSOs are expanding digital marketing, technology and enablement spend by cutting personnel, live events, and outsourcing budgets.
Pillars of Sales Strategy
As noted in the graphic, there are a few pillars of change surrounding the buyer-centric priority, including:
- Sales Force Deployment – consider the impact of this new virtual selling era
- Parallel Commercial Structure – sales, marketing, and service (plus digital tools) should all focus on improving the buyers’ journey
- Dynamic Customer Engagements – commercial organizations must meet buyers where and when they want to be met
As with all significant transitions, the speed and willingness to change eventually leads to a new set of winners and losers. The new demand on sales strategy – and sales leaders – is to embrace the future of sales. Those who do so quickly will find a competitive advantage, but it won’t be long before this is all table stakes.