As a customer focused sales effectiveness consultant, I always look first at the section of the report providing the list of initiatives CSOs plan to undertake to improve the performance of their troops. I find this a valuable orientation to check whether the offerings of my practice are in line with market trends. Although, I very much appreciate the insight comments provided in the report together with the data, I like to form also my own opinion by just looking on the data itself.
Looking at the list of initiatives ranked in importance in the 2010 report and comparing it to the same list in the 2009 report, there are three trends catching my particular attention.
Increased Process OrientationWhat struck me first were the changes in ranking of initiatives in the upper middle of the table. The initiative «Analyze customer buy process» has moved up in rank and is now considered more important than «Revise Sales Process» I consider this a very positive trend which fits well with what I have believed for years. Improving performance requires an understanding of the processes leading to the results with which performance is measured. Furthermore, I am a long term advocate that sales processes must be aligned with how customers want to buy. So ranking the initiative of understanding these buy processes higher in importance than revising one’s sales process makes all the sense for me. Maybe it is also an indication, that the sales leader community finally acknowledges the fact, that Web 2.0 has a far reaching impact on how customers buy.
Access to knowledge repositionedThe second remarkable trend to me is the ‘relegation’ in importance of the initiative «Improve Reps access to information» to just below «Revising Sales process». Although I have invested quite some time and effort to expand the capabilities of my practice in the Sales Enablement domain a solution which can answer such initiatives, I am not unhappy about this trend. I take it that sales leaders have become more realistic and do no longer take Sales Enablement as the next silver bullet. I do not believe that this new ranking can be interpreted that the considerable drain on sales peoples’ time to search and adapt information to suit a particular sales situation has diminished. Thus the negative impact on performance is still the same. I take this new ranking rather as an expression, that for Sales Enablement to serve its purpose: Increasing the ‘situational fluency’ of sales people, it must be put in the context of the buying process and the corresponding sales process.
More focus on Sales & Marketing CollaborationThe third observation is about the increase of importance of the initiative «More closely align Sales & Marketing» which now ranks second directly behind what remains to be considered the most important initiative «Revise lead generation».
This must be good news to Chief Marketing Officers who are increasingly held accountable for business results. They should now find a more open ear with their CSO counterparts. This also confirms my believe, that CSOs seeking top performance can no longer ignore marketing. My continued investment in improving my capabilities is thus timely to support CSOs wanting to implement such initiatives.
Lead generation remaining the top initative is of some concern to me. The fact that this initative has the highest priority for the fifth consecutive year now, indicates first, that the ranking has probably little to do with the current economic situation. To me it is more an indication, that CSOs and CMOs for that matter, are handed down a target revenue number from the CEO, COO, CFO level mainly taking into account share holder value aspects. CSOs seem to continue to believe that for meeting those targets, most attention should be given on filling the funnel on the top. It is my hope that the increased focus on process aspects will lead sales leaders to the conclusion that there might be other means to increase revenue by getting more out of what you have (i.e. increase velocity and conversion rate of opportunities).
Another way to do more with the same could be by ’lead recycling’. This is probably the most promising area where CSOs and CMOs can start collaborating and learn how they can leverage each others capabilities in a very pragmatic low risk manner.
The Sales Performance Optimization 2010 Survey Results and Analysis Report by CSO Insights is thus as thought provoking as ever and is a must read for anybody concerned with sales performance.
To me personally, the report provided assurance, that my practice is well prepared to help Sales Leaders implementing the initiatives they consider most important for improving sales performance.
You can get the report on CSO Insights’ website at http://www.csoinsights.com/Publications/Shop/Sales-Performance-Optimization