Digital transformation has upended B2B sales – and many companies are struggling to adjust their sales approaches to these new buyers and buying habits. However, new technology like AI and machine learning – and the complementary efforts of human workers – are now fueling their sales transformation. Where once sellers would cast an overwide and inefficient net to generate conversions, they are now able to tailor their approach to each individual buyer, meeting them where they are in their purchasing journey. 

We’ve identified four levels of sales operations maturity for organizations, from foundational to intelligent, and all companies who want to stay competitive should be striving for that intelligent level, or to be what we call future-ready sales.

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Learn how focusing on future-ready sales helps one of our largest clients seize new opportunities

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A changed landscape

B2B buyers usually come already educated about the buying options available to them. They’re likely to ask sophisticated questions, and they expect sellers to connect the dots, not provide basic functional product information. It’s now up to the sellers to meet buyers where they are on an individualized basis – matching the right product and service information to the right customer at the moment of need. Sellers must have an ongoing, continuously updated understanding of B2B customers and their unique needs. 

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Four levels of operations maturity

Accenture research has uncovered four levels of sales operations maturity, from the transactional and incremental to the strategic and transformational. The benefits gained from moving to the right on this scale are substantial: the 7% of companies that we identified as future-ready had profitability gains of 5.8pp and efficiency gains of 18.8%.

So where is your company on the spectrum?

Let’s explore each one more deeply.

At the foundational level, companies are stable, basically just beyond the starting line. While stable organizations have data-driven tools and teams, and can measure sales performance and benchmarks effectively, they are still mostly siloed. This prevents the widespread sharing of info and insights that could boost the customer experience.

Efficient companies are a step up – with plentiful automation, optimization and segmentation of sales roles. Poor leads are automatically disqualified by the automation of information-gathering to prepare for sales outreach. Technologies like Salesforce are incorporated and sometimes augmented with AI capabilities that lower costs. But these companies lack the specific performance and channel insights that further enhance the sales experience.

Once we get to the predictive level, companies start to break away from the pack, with clear advantages over the competition. Along with using advanced data and analytics to generate insights that inform operations, these organizations also have performance and channel insights that allow for better segmentation and ultimately result in better seller and buyer experiences. (For more on the importance of the seller experience, check out my previous blog LINK). At this level, errors or barriers to sales completion are called out proactively and then adjusted in response. Despite the advanced level these organizations have reached, they are still not operating at scale and not all data is aligned (nor are results analyzed in real time to iterate product development).

Then we get to the highest level, future-ready organizations. These are far ahead of even predictive companies, with agility and scalability allowing them to increase revenue and improve business outcomes. Significantly, data alignment across marketing, sales and service enable hyper-personalized buyer experiences. Even more impressively, real-time sales results affect product innovation, which in turn drives repeat business.

Moving up the scale towards future-ready sales, even just one level, yields notable results: Accenture research found that companies moving one maturity level higher between 2017 and 2020 were 7.6% more efficient and 2.3pp more profitable than those who didn’t.

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Shannon Copeland

Managing Director – Accenture Operations, Digital Inside Sales Innovation Lead

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