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Agile Selling: Powering profitable sales growth

Agile selling helps companies achieve profitable sales growth. Learn how with insights from the 2014 sales performance optimization study.


Accenture, in collaboration with CSO Insights, a leading research and benchmarking organization, conducted in 2014 the 20th annual study on sales performance optimization to assess current sales performance, challenges facing sales executives, and what organizations are doing to address those challenges.

Pressures on chief sales executives remain intense: Not only do they have higher revenue targets for this next year, most also report greater challenges in delivering profitable growth.

Three trends are further complicating matters with strategic implications not only for sales, but also for marketing, customer service and any other functional area that touches the customer:

  • Nonstop customers. Customers today have access to more knowledge and opinions, through more channels, than ever before. With the advance of digital technologies, buyers are always in a dynamic and multidirectional channel, where they can constantly evaluate (and re-evaluate) whether a promise made by a supplier is a promise delivered.

  • The digital revolution. IT no longer encompasses a set of tools that enable sales processes. Digital disruptions and cloud-based technologies have become important catalysts for business transformation.

  • The evolving role of the chief sales executive (CSO). Today, expectations of the CSO are greater and more multidimensional, and CSOs are expected to wear many hats—among them, chief profitability officer, chief transformation officer, chief coaching officer and even chief customer officer.

Watch the Video
Powering Profitable Sales Growth: Five Imperatives

Key Findings

  1. CSOs face unprecedented challenges

    Pressures on CSOs remain intense; 99 percent are planning for higher revenue targets for this next year. However, the majority of CSOs are unsure if–and how–they can deliver.

    Only 25 percent of CSOs expressed either no doubts or minimal doubts about achieving their new revenue targets. Importantly, CSOs reported for 2014 two critical trend reversals: After several years of increases in both percentage of sales representatives achieving quota and revenue target increases, both these numbers are lower for 2014. Even with these decreases, CSOs indicated less confidence in representatives’ ability to make their targets compared to previous years.

    Sales performance is decreasing despite CSOs’ previous investments and efforts to increase sales effectiveness. The traditional sales model is no longer working.

  1. Action needed

    It is time for CSOs to rethink their investments and sales models in a dynamic, always-on and always-connected environment. CSOs can no longer rely on their old playbooks. An entirely new approach to sales is required.

    Accenture’s research and experience shows that an agile selling approach can be a primary source of competitive differentiation and sustainable growth by producing significant improvements in sales force performance and bottom-line savings.

    Yet, most companies have not adopted the agile selling principles that are now required. In some cases, this is due to CSOs’ reluctance to let go of the traditional selling approaches they have developed over the years; in others, because CSOs simply don’t know where to invest.


An agile selling playbook comprises five imperatives for achieving sales transformation and growth at S-P-E-E-D:

  • Spend optimization: Put your money where your profitability is. Agile sellers strategically align their working sales spend to power profitable growth and bolster returns on investments.

  • Price and profit optimization: Master the art of the deal. Agile sellers use analytics to develop a customer-centered and contextual pricing approach to increase profits. They also provide sales teams with insights and tools to know when and how to negotiate.

  • Execution and operations excellence: Focus on experience and insights. Agile sellers make their new process playbooks so valuable that sales teams eagerly adopt them as well as using technology as a catalyst for business transformation with a strategy-led methodology for technology delivery.

  • Enablement of sales talent: Agile sellers apply science to help current sales reps deliver better performance, as well as to make better hiring decisions.

  • Digital selling and dynamic channels: Build a front-office engine for agile selling. Agile sellers rebuild the front office to truly collaborate around a customer-centric approach—creating an ecosystem that delivers a superior customer experience as well as a profit contribution for the seller.