Sales Executive Corner

2022: The New Era of Digital Transformation for Sales

Anna Baird, Chief Revenue Officer at Outreach's Avatar

Anna Baird, Chief Revenue Officer at Outreach

The sales profession has changed more in the last two years than it has in decades, making it an incredibly exciting time to be a revenue leader. We are on the cusp of a revolutionary selling approach — one where our team’s success hinges on having a digital-first mindset.

It is more important than ever for revenue leaders to digitally transform their sales organizations.

That was the overarching takeaway for me after reading “B2B Leaders Usher In A New Era of Sales,” the new thought leadership paper Outreach commissioned from Forrester Consulting. To compile the research, Forrester conducted a survey of 212 sales leaders, who represent more than 20 industries at companies with headquarters in the UK and North America.*

Here is a sneak peek at some of the key findings. You can also download the full paper to ensure your company is prepared for a permanent shift to digital-first sales methods.

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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion will continue to play an integral role in achieving your business goals.

The Outreach-commissioned Forrester paper confirms it is time for us all to walk the walk on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI): “If North American sales firms continue to deprioritize DEI initiatives, they risk losing deals and talent.”*

Roughly two-thirds of respondents said it’s important for their teams to represent the world around them. It’s not enough, however, to hold that value in your heart. It should be apparent in your org chart, culture, business strategy, and daily operations. First and foremost, because it’s the right thing to do. Secondarily, because buyers will — and should — hold you accountable.

DEI is also important to retaining top talent. Nearly 80 percent of workers want to work for a company that values diversity, equity, and inclusion. They also want to know their employer will speak up when it matters; according to Forrester, 82 percent of sales leaders expect their CEO to take a stand on social issues.*

If diversity is listed as a value on your website, prospects and candidates will look to see if it is also reflected on your board and executive team. Many buyers ask prospective vendors to demonstrate how they prioritize DEI in their business. And some are actually dropping existing vendors who do not prioritize it at all.

I believe it — customers thank me all the time for our team being representative of their worldview. And internally, women of all levels tell me that Outreach is the first company to invest in and value their long-term careers.

But we are just getting started. Executives within the sales industry (and beyond) have to do the hard work of finding amazingly talented people who aren't getting the same opportunities as everyone else — and help them rise up the ranks.

It is the year of the manager. Your success is reliant on theirs.

Speaking of career growth, now is the time to enable our sales managers to be the best they can be. If we don’t, we will lose talent.

According to the Forrester paper, between June and August 2021, 12.1 million workers in the U.S. left their jobs voluntarily,* and the most recent data from the U.S Department of Labor indicates an estimated 4.5 million quit or changed jobs in November. We owe it to our front-line managers to lead with empathy and accountability.

Sales managers are often promoted to their roles with very little preparation for the transition. They start out as star performers in the field and then get tapped on the shoulder to take on more responsibility. They are expected to perform new activities such as onboarding, training, and coaching team members — and many times, they have to figure it all out on their own. It can be a very steep learning curve.

We must provide our managers with the right support, or they’re likely to go from rock-star sellers to job candidates at new companies. According to Forrester, “Fueled by the great resignation, the smoldering war for talent is now in a full-on burn.”*

For sales managers to succeed in their current roles, leaders must invest in upskilling programs, with a particular emphasis on teaching them how to consume, analyze, and act on data. They also need a sales Engagement and Intelligence platform that frees up their time and aggregates team activity into one place so they can see what is working, what is not, and scale successes across all reps.

With the right training in place, sales managers today do not have to “fake it until they make it.” They have the digital tools to make the right decisions as they learn and grow in the position, even as sales transformation accelerates.

Forecasting should be a science, not just an art.

Historically, sales teams have relied on instincts to make decisions and determine their forecasts. In fact, 60 percent of respondents in the Forrester paper said they do not have a well-defined or scientific approach to forecasting.* Unfortunately, guessing often means guessing wrong. This can lead to making important business decisions based on incomplete or incorrect information. Inaccurate forecasting is one of many reasons why CROs have such a short average tenure at companies. 

Leaders often underestimate the amount of human resources it takes to forecast. Sales leaders, operations, business intelligence, and finance teams are all often involved. Outreach Global Innovation Evangelist Mary Shea conducted a poll to find out just how much time is spent on forecasting. Roughly 25 percent of respondents said their organizations spend more than 100 hours a week on forecasting. That is a lot of personnel, time, and money spent on a “best guess.”

Your revenue team needs data, not just good instincts, to forecast. It should be a science, not just an art. In this new era of digital transformation, your team needs a platform that can provide a single snapshot of its revenue stream. This allows them to focus on bigger opportunities for the business, rather than defending their projections.

It has never been more exciting to be a revenue leader. The transformation of go-to-market teams is happening, and you can lead the charge. As they say, “You don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”

Don’t let your business fall behind on the digital transformation. 

Learn more about the key insights in “B2B Leaders Usher In A New Era of Sales,” the thought leadership paper Outreach commissioned from Forrester Consulting.

* Base: 212 sales leaders in various industries across North America and the UK.

Source: A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Outreach, B2B Leaders Usher In A New Era Of Sales, December 2021