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What will the VP of Sales role look like in 10 years?

by Patrick Stakenas  |  July 18, 2012  |  2 Comments

The VP of Sales, Head of Sales, Chief Sales Officer… (pick your title) role continues to evolve and change as technology, processes and legislation continue to evolve.  10 years ago the sales organziation was run on spreadsheets and “Big Data” wasnt a term.  Mobile accessability was very limited, virtual offices were less prevelant and almost all training was done in a classroom. 

  • What will happen in the next 10 years?
  • What new knowledge, skills or expertise will be required?
  • What technolgoy or tools will be required to run a sales operation?
  • What skills will be deemed useless that we have learned to do the job?

What is your take on what the VP of Sales role will look like in 2023?

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Category: chief-sales-officer  customer-relationship-management  head-of-sales  sales-performance-management  vice-president-of-sales  

Tags: chief-sales-officer  crm  customer-relationship-management  head-of-sales  icm  incentive-compensation  sales-coaching  sales-performance-management  spm  vp-of-sales  

Patrick Stakenas
Research Director
1 year at Gartner
14 years IT industry

Patrick Stakenas is a research director at Gartner Research. His primary focus is on sales performance management (SPM) and mobile. Mr. Stakenas has extensive expertise in SPM, CRM, SaaS and cloud computing models. He has application expertise in SPM, incentive compensation, sales force automation (SFA) ...Read Full Bio

Thoughts on What will the VP of Sales role look like in 10 years?

  1. mwallcomm says:

    Great timing on this post. I just had this conversation the other day with a friend who told me the role of the sale leader will never change. That is just not reality. Everything, all roles, evolve and change and you have to be willing to evolve too.

    It is a fairly complex answer as so many factors influence the answer to your question.

    1) size of the company
    2) buyer(s) of the products and services
    3) product price points
    4) your industry’s adoption of technology
    5) whether you have an open/social or a closed organization

    Below are some of the things that I think will change significantly and likely have already begun.

    1) Preparation will not be optional – The traditional sales model which often includes way too many costly meetings that delay the sales cycle will go away. After all, with the technology available today, sales leaders better have their teams prepared when they go into a meeting, asking better questions than “tell me about your company”, and understand how to do a great demo on the fly.

    2) Partnerships with marketing and customer care will be critical – In any good organization it cannot be a them vs. us culture in the future. With today’s CRM, MA, CEM, and social tools, visibility into activity influencing sales is easier than ever. Companies that have embraced technology will see all the things that have influenced a sale or lost it. Comment that the salespersons relationship is the reason we won the customer will not fly like it used to when in the CRM system we can see how many touchpoints have been made by marketing and service. And, automation has replaced and will replace the need for a call from sales in many industries.

    3) Virtual selling vs. sales training – Nothing will ever replace face to face sales calls in my opinion, but most sales meetings with multiple stakeholders will end up with one person in an office and the supporting cast online. That means that it is critically important that the people doing the online presentations, sales engineers, solution consultants, etc. are better trained and prepared than ever. It is a lot easier to lose an audience when you are not in the same room.

    4) Social media – Social media sites are the next generation of CRM systems. We need to figure out how to smoothly integrate that into systems, processes, and methodologies in place at the organization. Plus, don’t think smart companies aren’t using tools to monitor the salespeople at competitive companies, who they are meeting with, tagging in photos….

    5) Mobile – In the future, there will be no need to carry handouts, laptops, etc. Our mobile devices, tablets, web sites, QR codes can help clients get the sales supporting documents they need. Many salespeople have trouble accepting that.

    Lastly, sales leaders will have to understand and use the technology themselves. Their teams will demand it. You will have to walk the walk to talk the talk.

    Again, great post.

  2. John Aiello says:

    Great questions, Patrick. Thanks for starting the conversation.

    My first thought is that the 10-year window is too long to try and predict accurately. Changes and innovation are happening too rapidly. The tools that are likely to be in place 10-years from now are too hard to even fathom. That said, the role of the VP of Sales is already changing in ways that need to be understood. Once we understand what is happening now, I think it provides some insight into how the role will continue to evolve over time. Here are just a few high-level thoughts on what is already changing:

    -Today’s VP of Sales needs to be an analytical animal. There is so much data available today… about what good opportunities look like, about content that is effective in communicating with prospects, about time spent and activities happening at each stage of the sales process, about different influencers on deals, etc.. Organizations now have access to more data than they know what to do with. The VP of Sales has to be able to rapidly sift through all the “big data” and quickly arrive at what to do about it. A great VP of Sales cannot mistake looking at data with “analysis”. Actionable insights into which deals to move forward and how to move those deals forward is what it needs to be all about.
    -Today’s VP of Sales has to be a bulldog in evaluating, securing, and deploying tools that will truly help his/her sellers. With the explosion of SaaS and enterprise apps on the market, every software vendor under the sun now tries to claim that it can help sellers be more productive… and as a result, there are too many products and too many people in organizations trying to evaluate them. CRM alone will never truly enable sellers to be more productive!!… but neither will CRM plus 100 other tools. The VP of Sales needs to be a student of the market, an expert on the efficiency and effectiveness drags on his/her organization, and an absolute bulldog in identifying and fighting for the right solutions to help the field (e.g. mobile or social soultions with a real purpose). I highly recommend a strong partnership with the VP of Marketing in this regard. Together, stand up to those in the organization who are fighting for a “one-size-fits-all” technology platform, or a “we can build this for you in 12 -18 months using some tools we already have” plan… and do not back down until the unique needs of field sellers are met.
    -Today’s VP of Sales needs to do more than just yell or demand that a sales process be followed… he/she needs to enable it. Organizations have spent billions (yes, billions) of dollars on developing sales processes. In fact, most companies have spent money on more than one (kind of defeating the purpose of having a process to begin with). A great VP of Sales should realize that if they have worked with a great partner on developing the process itself, although it will require tweaking every now and then, the changes are pretty intuitive. What is systemically broken though, in most companies, is the set of tools available for a seller to actually execute that process. This is where the VP of Sales needs to focus. If product managers and marketers are not producing the right content for the different stages of selling… the VP of Sales needs to demand it. If sellers cannot access the best content and collaborative insight within the context of a selling opportunity… the VP of Sales needs to demand it. If sellers are not able to access that content and insight no matter where they (or their prospects) are… the VP of Sales needs to demand it. Bottom line, in my opinion… developing sales process is only 10% – 20% of the challenge facing sales organizations. Really enabling it to be followed and to be effective is the other 80% – 90%.

    These are just a few thoughts. You have obviously opened up a valuable conversation. I think the very best VP’s of Sales in 2022 are already thinking about these types of priorities right here in 2012. It will be exciting to see how they move forward.


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