Selling Power Blog

News & Insights for B2B Sales Leaders

August 14, 2019

What Are Your Top Sales Priorities?

By Scott Collins, Vice President and Team Manager, Gartner

In the U.S., we’re working our way through a summer of barbeques, pool parties, trips to the beach, and visits with friends and family. That also means we’re halfway through 2019 – and CSOs and their leadership teams need to take a quick look at where they’ve been and where they are going the rest of the year.

At the end of 2018, Gartner identified five critical priorities the majority of sales leaders wanted to address and invest in for 2019. Let’s revisit them and see how you’re stacking up so far.

Priority #1: Sales Development Activities

Nearly a third of sales leaders indicated improving the effectiveness of sales development activities was a critical priority to address this year. To address this, most leaders wanted to appropriately structure and design sales development rep (SDR) roles and their inside sales function. Gartner research identified a few critical areas of focus to drive the effectiveness of sales development activities:

  1. Have you clearly defined and NARROWLY focused the SDR role (e.g., separating lead qualification from outbound prospecting)? Two different sets of activities and, arguably, skill sets are needed here.
  2. What external investments have you been able to make in data and predictive analytics to better arm your SDRs and inside sales individuals?
  3. To what degree have you MOVED the SDR and inside sales capability in-house, if you were outsourcing? Gartner research shows that internal SDRs outperform outsourced teams.

Priority #2: Improving Sales Analytics

This was the top priority for sales leaders heading into 2019. Sales leaders clearly see the opportunity and value a strong sales analytics capability can provide. With that comes the opportunity to drive sales analytics maturity, not just the collection of data and the investment in tools. To what degree have you been able to do what progressive, leading sales organizations have done to drive maturity and extract value from sales analytics?

Gartner research reveals leading sales organizations are working toward the four following activities:

  1. Focus sales operations on ensuring data quality versus solely on data capture.
  2. Use sales analytics as a strategic problem-solving capability.
  3. Align specific business goals and KPIs to sales analytics.
  4. Establish a center of excellence and a cross-functional steering committee to systemize and govern data workflows.

Priority #3: Quality and Impact of Sales Enablement

As every sales leader knows, the complexity of sales (and customer buying) today continues to grow. In response, organizations continue to invest heavily in driving improved sales enablement. The challenge, however, is that many organizations approached enablement strategy with a “more is better” mindset, which has led to unfocused, poorly-designed tools that create unnecessary complexity for sellers and even customers. If your 2019 goal was to improve the quality and impact of sales enablement, have you been able to adjust and make progress across these leading approaches?

  1. Focus enablement on high-impact sales activities – those most likely to drive deal outcomes.
  2. Build “buyer enablement,” which are tools and content designed specifically to aid customers in completing their buying tasks more easily (for example, a calculator or a diagnostic).

Priority #4: Frontline Sales Talent Management

Talent came in fourth and fifth on sales leaders’ priorities for 2019, starting with frontline sales talent. While the previous priority was about enabling the sales team, this priority focuses on hiring, developing, retaining, and coaching the talent needed to succeed in today’s environment. While the skills required to succeed in such a complex environment continue to change, Gartner research has identified a number of critical areas in which leaders need to make progress right now:

  1. Adjust and update hiring practices, such as job descriptions and interview questions, that attract and find the sales behaviors and approaches that define sales success today.
  2. Update competency models and development programs to address the critical skills and approaches to information.
  3. Ensure sales managers are coaching and developing talent effectively.
  4. Develop a compelling employee value proposition for sales talent today.

Priority #5: Sales Manager Effectiveness

Lastly, sales leaders have targeted their frontline sales manager talent as a critical area for 2019. Leaders often cite improving coaching effectiveness as one of these critical areas. But there are additional areas progressive sales organizations address when looking at their sales manager population, including:

  1. Build a sales manager bench through a systematic approach and program to deliver ready-made sales managers into the field when needed.
  2. Develop critical sales manager competencies that differentiate top performers. Gartner research has identified those differentiated competencies as coaching, sales innovation, and creating a climate of judgment.
  3. Build a sustained, long-term coaching culture across the entire sales organization.
  4. Build and deliver a compelling “case for change” to sales managers to ensure they drive long-term adoption of sales strategies, tools, and approaches to talent management.

As you can see, sales leaders are addressing many priorities this year. And each organization is going to have a slightly different priority list. What are your top three? To what degree have you been able to make your sales organization a progressive, leading sales organization that delivers above market results? As you look across each of these, this should give you a good litmus test of where your team stands today and the opportunities you have for the rest of 2019.

Headshot of Scott Collins

Today's post is by Scott Collins, vice president and team manager in Gartner's sales practice.