Gartner says chief sales officers (CSO) must make proactive and methodical adjustments to their sales strategy planning approach for the years ahead.
“CSOs who assume that current conditions are a good reflection of the ‘new normal’, and believe these conditions are attractive for various reasons, are putting their organizations at great risk,” said Steve Herz, senior director analyst in the Gartner Sales practice.
He added that pandemic disruption has changed customer needs and preferences in complex ways, raising the chances that the strategic plans CSOs make won’t match markets six or 12 months from today.
CSOs who appreciate and plan around lingering market uncertainty can create competitive advantages for their teams.
“This moment in the pandemic represents a window of opportunity for CSOs to strengthen their market position as they update their sales strategy and tactics.”Steve Herz.
Gartner offers eight steps that CSOs must consider mitigating current problems and evolve innovations developed during the pandemic into permanent capabilities that create competitive advantage.
Know what’s changed with the customer
For the rest of 2021 and into 2022, CSOs must lead a disciplined, vigilant, and measured approach to reassessing and mapping changes to customers’ buying needs.
It’s important to deliberately govern the decision-making process to enable agility but avoid premature decisions based on unstable customer needs.
Update strategy in line with new operating conditions
Above and beyond changes to their customers’ needs, CSOs must reassess the fundamental assumptions underpinning the design of their own sales forces. Rebalancing virtual and live sellers is just one small element of a larger set of changes to consider.
Be mindful of how decisions impact colleagues
To lay the groundwork for effective decision-making, sales leaders need to re-establish a shared, cohesive point of view on the priorities and limits of the sales organization.
They must consider communication channels that may have been disrupted during the pandemic and whether they need to be repaired or adapted to meet new needs.
The best time to bring sales to the new normal
Changes to the sales force should follow a standard logical sequence in most cases, with many decisions depending on details of “predecessor” choices. For example, CSOs should focus on the core go-to-market strategy before changes to roles are considered.
Likewise, valuation of customer and prospect accounts must precede role-by-role reassessment of headcount requirements.
Update risk strategies for post-pandemic
CSOs who developed new risk-management and decision-governance processes to deal with the COVID-19 crisis should continue using them to guide commercial operations.
In the longer term, risk management is a capability that must be standardized and elevated in importance as a component of any modern sales organization.
Update sales planning and decision-making assumptions, calculations, and benchmarks
CSOs must remember that not all assumptions are equally important to the operations of the sales organization, and some important benchmarks require attention less urgently than others.
For example, if the customer’s buying journey has changed in the post-pandemic world, and new sales activities have been introduced, assumptions used in forecasting must be revisited.
Evaluate sales enablement teams for agility
CSOs and their sales enablement leaders can accelerate post-pandemic success by anticipating both the short term and long-term changes that may impact them. For example, short-term change may be to sales processes that are likely to roll through the sales organization and beyond.
The long-term change may be to the sales enablement function, many linked to technology advances which would have occurred irrespective of, but accelerated by, the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ensure a robust process for identifying, sharing and standardizing innovations
CSOs and their sales enablement leaders must recognize that effectively supporting the sales force requires a top-down, end-to-end view of the challenges sellers are facing. But the power of a top-down executive perspective does not lessen the potential impact of a motivated seller using raw creativity to close a deal.
Sales organizations that can learn and document lessons from successful sellers and then export them to the rest of the sales team will be more responsive to customer needs.