Innovating the sales journey
Winning sales with ingenuity and technology
At Accenture, building client relationships, delivering on our commitments and selling new ideas are a team sport. Whether it’s originating new opportunities or extending existing work at one of our priority accounts, almost all our half-million-plus employees play an essential role in supporting our clients and sales.
This approach to sales is a strength, but it can also be a weakness. After all, when everyone is responsible for sales, who’s accountable for sales performance? Who orchestrates the action and bears the responsibility for ensuring our sales efforts are managed in an effective, efficient and innovative way?
In early 2020, we answered that question when we created a dedicated, C-suite sales role at Accenture: Chief Sales Officer. This new global role coincided with the adoption of our new operating model, which included a bold ambition for sales growth.
Accomplishing these goals meant we had to innovate, reorganize and reimagine the sales function—a formidable challenge in an organization where sales had limited coordination across geographies and functions. Accordingly, we sought to design a more connected and globally consistent sales architecture and invest in tools, systems and processes to drive growth.
We didn’t know it at the time but launching this initiative to transform sales at Accenture would prove especially critical to our success during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic forced the world to change how it does business, and as countries went into lockdown, we changed too. Our reimagined sales function and enhanced digital tooling enabled us to thrive in a remote selling environment more than we could have predicted. Here’s how we did it:
Harnessing Data and Technology for Intelligent Sales
Enabled by a suite of capabilities, we enhanced in Salesforce, we drove enablement and focused on smarter, data-driven selling. We standardized the systems of engagement and aggregated customer and third-party data into a single source of truth for seamless access and easier analysis by our sales professionals. We also refined tools in Salesforce so our salespeople could more readily track client relationships, forecast quarterly sales pipelines, and evaluate deals.
For instance, we benefit from a tool that guides our sales leaders through a custom deal qualification checklist to identify and assess various facets of the deal, ranging from budget considerations to the quality of the client relationship. The automated feature, based on long-standing experience, helps sales professionals gain a comprehensive understanding of prospective deals and informs their sales strategies.
Other capabilities include a core toolset and standardized practices for account planning. This common approach has helped our sales teams identify and pursue an unprecedented number of value-creating growth opportunities for our clients. As a result, heading into fiscal 2021, our unqualified pipeline—that is, our portfolio of potential deals—tripled, making it the largest in Accenture history.
Structuring to Drive Leadership and Teamwork
The appointment of our first-ever Chief Sales Officer was part of a broader effort to standardize and structure sales roles. For the first time, we created a consistent leadership structure across the three markets in which Accenture operates—North America, Europe and Growth Markets—with one sales lead per market as well as dedicated sales professionals at the regional and service level. Together, they bring the best of Accenture’s capabilities to meet client needs.
Our sales leaders draw on their own management acumen to build teams while taking advantage of consistent global processes, clear reporting lines and advanced technology. Another new tool helps make sure teams are the right size, based on the sales outcomes we’re trying to achieve according to market, industry and client nuances in our regions around the world.
Cultivating Careers by Embracing Potential
Accenture sales professionals can now follow a clear, rewarding career path with incentives, room for growth and opportunities to succeed. Someone can now join Accenture in an entry-level sales role and through a sales development program, learning and experience, explore a variety of sales career opportunities, whether it’s moving through different parts of the company or advancing to the highest levels of leadership. This compelling career path is essential to developing our talent and attracting new recruits.
Building the Right Teams to Command Complexity
To lead our largest and most complex deals, we brought together a team of our highest performing and most experienced global sales leaders to evolve and formalize their expertise within Accenture. The team is anchored by what we call Market Makers: senior sales professionals with deep experience orchestrating large, complex deals. They work alongside highly experienced Enterprise Solution Architects (ESAs), who design the best solution for each deal. We also formalized the new role of Transformation Directors, who work with the Market Maker, Client Account Leads and ESAs to shape each deal and focus on client value realization. Other members of the team include dedicated financial architects, pursuit marketing specialists and senior legal professionals.
We also wanted to train the next generation and bring more sales professionals into the fold, so we developed a rigorous, assessment-based certification program for Market Makers and ESAs. In order to be certified, they must complete a program that combines self-study and peer-to-peer learning with coaching by external vendors and Accenture leaders. This talent investment has already doubled the volume of our large transactions.
Leveraging Human Expertise and Best Practices
Just like their sales counterparts, Accenture’s sales enablement professionals previously worked in a fragmented way. We created the Sales and Pricing Performance organization, a team organized into 14 core service areas, to unify how sales enablement capabilities are delivered to sales teams around the world. Using a technology-enabled suite of methodologies they built in Salesforce, the team has driven adoption of these tools to standardize effective practices in every market.
Our sales transformation has yielded remarkable results. Not only did our portfolio of potential deals grow to historic levels and our sales pipeline see unprecedented strength, but by the beginning of FY2021, we were substantially outperforming our peers.
While businesses with greater than US$1 billion in revenue saw their closed deals decline more than 30% during the pandemic, Accenture's sales soared to US$12.9 billion in the first quarter of the fiscal year—representing a 25% year-on-year gain—and rose to US$16 billion in the second quarter, an all-time record. Our sales growth helped catapult Accenture to the top position for IT services market share, according to a recent Gartner report, which noted that Accenture excelled with respect to revenue mix and "a consistent reinvestment strategy."
When it's safe, our sales professionals will resume many of their field-based practices, enabled by the strong infrastructure, tools and connected teams and approaches that we developed during our transformation. This evolution will help us to keep making major strides toward meeting, and exceeding, our bold growth objectives. We continue to evolve our sales function during these unusual times—and we're committed to ensuring our clients do the same. We want to help companies provide their sales teams with the data-driven insights, technology, tools and training it takes to win business and expand market share. And we will keep innovating to empower our sales professionals so they can be the best in their fields—whether or not they're actually in the field.