The sales operations function went through dynamic changes this past year. 2022 killed the “growth at all costs” model.
In 2023, budgets will be leaner, talent scarce and selling more challenging. All these challenges make one thing clear – Delighting customers at every turn is what matters.
If we walk backwards from this larger goal, it requires a maniacal focus on the customer. What do customers really need? How can they be assisted? How can they be helped with making confident purchase decisions without seeming pushy?
To achieve this, sales teams have to meet customers where they are, at the right time. And act as their trusted advisors.
Knowing the buyer’s journey from lead to cash is critical to survive what lies ahead. The new mantra for sales operations in 2023 will be to “do less with more.”
This article will cover the top sales operations trends that 2023 can expect. It’s vastly different from the trends we saw last year. Which is a testament to the fact how fast things are changing in the B2B sales world.
What is Sales Operations or SalesOps?
Sales Operations refers to the function, role, activities or processes within a sales organization that help sales reps sell faster and better.
This department is responsible for reducing frictions within the sales process. It enables reps to achieve higher win rates in a predictable and repeatable manner.
The sales operations function strategizes on ways that can help sales reps focus on tasks that contribute to revenue. This includes implementing sales training, investing in tools and technology that eliminate roadblocks in selling, or creating processes that optimize the sales process for all reps.
The ultimate goal of a sales operations function is to create a sales engine that runs smoothly.
The sales operations function has a direct impact on business revenue. This department continues to be a strategic component of an organization’s structure.
Top Trends To Expect in Sales Operations in 2023
B2B sales has been evolving at a rapidly fast pace, making traditional processes of operations obsolete.
Some of the biggest challenges facing sales operations today include:
- 72% of B2B buyers demand a rep-free experience.
- 47% sellers say their sales tech stack does not boost their productivity or improves results.
- Close to half of operations professionals say that processes within their companies are only moderately data-driven or not data-driven at all.
- The confidence of operations professionals dipped over the last two years.
As companies hold back on investments because of the downturn, sales leaders will have to devise new ways to survive and sustain in 2023. This puts sales operations in a unique position to help organizations navigate these new challenges.
By embracing innovation and pivoting at the right time, sales operations leaders can provide some much needed relief in the tough months that await.
They can do this by staying on top of these trends that demand attention:
1. Focus on Renewing Customers Will Gain Priority
With recession looming over businesses, budgets have been slashed across organizations. Anything that is a mere “good to have” does not make the cut anymore.
Because of this, ROI discussions will start at the earlier stages of the buying journey. Hearing “no” and “not right now” will become more common. Which would mean longer sales cycles.
Sales leaders will have to bring in more revenue while keeping costs lower. One way to do this is by focusing on expansion. Lean times demand a hyperfocus on existing customers.
Focusing on existing customers is more cost efficient than going after new ones. It costs five to ten times more to acquire a new customer than to renew an existing one.
In an era of lowered demand, the best sales teams will invest most of their time in engaging and retaining existing customers, and mapping out strategies to build long-lasting relationships with them.
Revenue leaders understand this which is why the number of job openings for account manager roles has seen more than 50% increase in the last year.
This focus on “farming” over “hunting” will become a strategic priority for most organizations in 2023. Sales teams will have to go out of their way to support existing customers and make them feel valued.
During economic uncertainty, we advise our clients to double down on showing their existing customers love. When you provide extra value during a time when others are likely pulling back, you’ll establish your company as a team who cares. In normal times it takes a decade to create this kind of competitive differentiation.LISA MCLEOD, FOUNDER OF MCLEOD & MORE
2. Multithreading Will Remain as a Key Sales Tactic
Multithreading is when reps form relationships with multiple stakeholders on the buying committee of an account. With an average of 6.8 decision makers in every B2B purchase, this sales tactic can be a saviour for sales teams in uncertain times.
Lack of multithreading also emerged as a top reason why sales teams lose deals in our survey. Not having strong relationships with all of the key players within the buying committee can be a big risk.
More than eight in 10 sellers (81%) say they have had deals lost or stalled in the past 12 months due to a key stakeholder leaving a client or prospect company.
With multithreading, even if the primary stakeholder quits the organization, reps can capitalize on the relationships they have with the rest of the stakeholders within that account.
Having relationships with multiple members of the buying committee gives a more holistic view of the problems buyers face. It can potentially increase the budget of buyers with buy-in from multiple stakeholders in the company.
This becomes especially more important in an economy sailing through choppy waters, where customer retention and engagement is top priority.
Multithreading will become important as having access to influencers, champions, gatekeepers, decision makers, economic buyers, and all other members of an ever increasing buying committee will make or break opportunities to solve customer problems.
3. Investing in AI Will Help Sellers Win More Deals
88% of Chief Sales Officers (CSOs) had already invested in or were considering investing in AI analytics tools and technologies. But without having a proper AI strategy in place and the plethora of options out there, it’s getting harder for SalesOps leaders to assess where to invest.
At the same time, CSOs who don’t invest in AI are missing opportunities to increase efficiency and improve customer engagement.
With a shrinking window of opportunity for sellers to engage with buyers, improving the effectiveness of sales becomes even more crucial. And AI can aid this by helping free up time for sales teams to deal with delicate customer cases that require acute problem solving skills, empathy and creativity.
Some top use cases for AI can include:
- Automating manual tasks for sales teams such as manual data entry of CRM
- Automating contact and activity data capture into CRM systems
- Identify risks in forecasting
- Recommend which sales lead to prioritize
- Provide insights about next-best action to move a deal towards closure
The investment in AI tech will continue to see an upward trend in 2023. But the approach will be more strategic as budget cuts are the norm right now.
Organizations will select use cases for AI in their sales processes by focusing on how to improve buyer engagement, build confidence around seller funnels, activities and deals.
We would like our sellers to spend more time interacting with customers and do less busy work in the background. We’re investing in enablement to direct them to the next opportunity, but we’re also trying to free them from administrative work by using automation as much as possible. Ideally, sellers won’t even notice the change. They just notice that they are spending less time doing non-value add activities and more time selling, building relationships, and explaining options to overwhelmed customers. I think that’s where we want the sellers to excel.TOBIAS WALDECK SERVES AS VICE PRESIDENT OF SALES AND MARKETING NORTH AMERICA FOR DAIMLER TRUCK FINANCIAL SERVICES.
4. Placing Clean Data at the Center of Tech Decisions
Sales operations leaders are in a unique position to drive efficiency in 2023 by building the tech stack of the future. According to LinkedIn’s State of SalesOps Report 2022, sales intelligence and CRM tools are the key building blocks of a modern sales tech stack.
But bad data is a huge problem. Critical data in systems like CRM are mostly missing, incomplete or duplicated. Almost half of sellers (45%) say their biggest data challenge is incomplete data.
Most organizations today is the unreliable data that continues to sit in core systems like CRM. Organizations today are working in hybrid environments. They are using multiple tools and communication channels. This leads to scattered data and disconnected systems across distributed teams.
Sales Operations teams are struggling to tie all of this together and fix the systems to surface the insights they need to help drive timely business decisions. And data inefficiencies are making companies lose as high as 30% of their annual revenue.
Sadly, most companies don’t even know of these hidden costs that bad data brings with it. In a Gartner survey, nearly 60% of companies said they don’t know how much bad data costs their businesses because they don’t measure it in the first place.
This is why clean data will be a top priority for sales operations in 2023. Sales leaders will look inwards at their own data and revenue systems and maintain its hygiene through solutions like automation and enrichment.
Clean and connected data can provide visibility into insights such as:
- Where are your reps spending time? Are they chasing the right deals?
- Are your Customer success team members meeting your top customers frequently?
- Are you losing more deals selling to technical buyers vs economic buyers?
- Is your sales team spending more time on low-margin customers?
- Are you reps ramping fast enough and enabling you to have a better payback period?
- Which stages are slowing down your revenue generation?
- Are your reps working on the hot leads that marketing generated?
- When was the last time your rep touched the committed deal this month?
Finding answers to such critical business questions needs cleaner data in systems like CRM. This should be done with a focus of mapping the entire sales funnel and capturing all your revenue facing activities and touch points holistically and reliably.
Organizations can no longer afford to work with bad data in 2023.
5. Driving Rep Productivity will be Table Stakes
Sales reps are critical cogs in the revenue machine. The way sales leaders enable them in 2023 will directly impact revenues. Leaders must create an environment where reps can thrive.
According to Gartner, quota attainment drops by 20% in tough selling environments where:
- Leadership dictates how sellers should meet their sales objectives
- Leadership is disconnected from the reality sellers operate in
- Sellers just “go through motions” to meet their activity tracking requirements
Sellers need to be given any ammunition they need to meet their targets, and in a way that elevates their productivity.
By automating manual tasks and freeing up their time, reps can focus on closing deals that require creative thinking. This will help reps focus more on the strategic part of their jobs such as doing more cold calls or booking more meetings.
Technology that enables reps to be more productive will still get invested in. Solutions that give reps and sales leaders clear visibility on their deals and recommend next best steps will become pivotal.
With every rep knowing exactly which deals to focus on, it will give them more confidence and autonomy over their pipelines, and increases their productivity to a large extent.
Revenue-Driving Functions Will Pave the Way
Organizations will address the digital transformation and aim to establish a holistic, end-to-end approach to managing the buyer’s journey and customer lifecycle. As a result, all operations will eventually come under one single roof called revenue operations.
Revenue operations (RevOps) is a function responsible for operations across all revenue-generating teams – sales, marketing and customer success. RevOps does all that SalesOps does.
Additionally, it looks over revenue generating functions like marketing and customer success. It aims to keep the GTM function aligned.
Deploying a RevOps strategy can have massive gains for for organizations, such as:
- 100% to 200% increases in digital marketing ROI
- 10% to 20% increases in sales productivity
- 10% increases in lead acceptance
- 15% to 20% increases in internal customer satisfaction
- 30% reduction in GTM expenses
More than 90% of operations leaders say their organization has some form of revenue operations capability, and 40% of those organizations have already implemented a centralized revenue operations function.
RevOps will tie all customer-facing operations like sales, marketing and customer success together and create a single-source of truth for them.
In order to serve the modern B2B customer, organizations need to know their unique pain points and have thorough knowledge of the stage they are at in their buying journey.
Fulfilling the needs of this customer requires sales, marketing and customer success to be aligned and work towards common goals.
RevOps teams will create this opportunity where sales ops, marketing ops and customer ops can have complete visibility into the buyer’s digital journey.
RevOps will also be responsible for investment in technology and tools that sales ops can use to develop realistic quotas and enhance seller productivity.
If you’re interested in knowing more about what’s happening in the sales operations space, subscribe to our podcast – The Revenue Lounge where we interview some phenomenal Operations leaders and ask them their secrets to running a powerful revenue engine.
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