Staying ahead of the game, even in tough times

Being the head of sales can bring sleepless nights these days—supply chain issues, staffing, an uncertain economy, and more. Market forces in particular are a complex web of cause and effect with tremendous impact: general inflation stokes wage inflation, which is also stoked by the “Great Resignation,” which in turn is stoked by the work-from-home (WFH) phenomenon, which was stoked by the global pandemic.

My advice, view these large-scale trends as your competition, just like any good salesperson, and develop a winning path forward.

Winning sales from home

Yes, we’re all painfully aware of this story: the pandemic hits forcing companies to rapidly move to WFH strategies and tools just to survive. The close affiliation of workers to their employers is stretched during this time of independence, which also fueled the Great Resignation.

Interestingly, though, to tell the WFH story properly, I believe you have to step back a bit. The first chapter in the story is that companies were already realizing they had a bloated traditional sales model – an on-prem, field sales force built primarily on relationship development with a set of loyal customers.

The second chapter is the move to digital sales. Leading companies were moving from salespeople who were simple telemarketers to digital sales reps able to close six- and seven-figure deals. So you had this digital sales revolution changing things and going up-market and up-segment for technology companies, for example, even before there was a pandemic.

When the pandemic hit, companies who were already digitally advanced really leapfrogged over those who were less mature technologically. (For example, at Accenture, we enabled our employees to fully work from home in less than two days.)

Many companies discovered that their fears about digital, work-from-home sellers being less productive were unwarranted. It turns out that if you apply the right set of technologies, tools and enablement, you don't have to see a productivity drain.

But many companies are still struggling to adapt. They’re realizing that having digital tools doesn’t turn their field sellers into digital sales experts.

Finding that “right set” to support a WFH model requires battle-tested tech stacks and processes with sellers trained to be effective in a digital-first sales environment. Digital inside sales teams have proven successful because they also have deep expertise in the nuances of omnichannel selling, and they have knowledge they can impart on existing sales teams and traditional field sellers. This right set might come from a managed service provider with the ability to rapidly scale up or down according to your needs – allowing you to test and pivot go-to-market strategies.

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Be careful not to trade one set of problems for another. If your sellers don’t have the sales expertise, product knowledge and local acumen, your efforts may end up actually costing you more than they save.

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New sales thinking to mitigate economic changes and wage inflation

Inflation is having a huge impact on businesses today. The inflation rate for January 2022 was 7.5% (compared to 1.4% a year ago). Although there are differences in various countries, the common theme is that inflation shock waves translate into wages needing to go up accordingly. In the private sector, compensation jumped 4.5% year-over-year during the final quarter of 2021. In total, wages and benefits increased 4% in 2021—the biggest increase in over 20 years.1

This can be difficult for the typical company to absorb and is causing many companies to rethink how they pay their employees and where their employees are located. However, be careful not to trade one set of problems for another. If your sellers don’t have the sales expertise, product knowledge and local acumen, your efforts may end up actually costing you more than they save.

When I speak with clients about these issues, I challenge them to change the conversation internally. Rather than focusing on resources costs and productive hour rates, I recommend focusing on outcomes. By evaluating ROI vs immediate costs, you see the true value of an effort. Sophisticated managed service sales partners are a great alternative. They take on the responsibility of finding and retaining the right talent—and bring the sales acumen and technology needed to identify and accelerate sales.

Shifts like inflation are a constant. Cost cutting and efficiency have been the focus for years, but we’re at a turning point. Today growth is driven by creating frictionless customer experiences and proactively anticipating customer needs. Our recent Future-Ready Sales research shows that organizations who focus on high-quality customer experiences can see nearly 2x the improvements around efficiency and 3x times the improvements around profitability of their peers.

To work towards the desired results, we help design the right pod of talent, partnering local resources with more experienced sales or technical experts who span multiple regions. Combined with the right data, analytics and automation, we’re able to help our clients create lasting customer relationships while lowering the total cost of ownership.

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The Great Resignation disruption

The current, unprecedented resignation of workers and movement to other employers is having another major impact on wage inflation. Top-tier salespeople have become more expensive—and especially expensive to hold onto. According to Gartner, CSOs are reporting an average increase in seller turnover being 36% above target.2

This talent loss (and the need to quickly replace top talent) is constraining growth. I often hear, “We can't even keep the people we've got, much less think about staffing up to support new growth targets in other regions or segments, like SMB.”

There’s no time to bemoan this development, however. Instead, companies are being required to step up and do things like provide a better quality of life to their salespeople—more opportunities; more individualized and employee-centric attention.

Additional support can come from advanced service providers in the sales space who can do complex sales faster, on a larger scale, and more effectively. Continuous increases in sales performance effectiveness and hitting performance targets are baked into the service.

Succeeding amid the market challenges

We’re all operating in a new reality and, even more important, a reality that shifts by the minute. The strategy that wins in today’s marketplace must be able to morph to deal with tomorrow’s. Putting together a salesforce that is agile and can adapt to market events as they occur is now essential. Learn how Accenture can help you build a future-ready and digital B2B revenue engine on our website.



Jeff Laue

Senior Managing Director – Accenture Operations, Digital Inside Sales Business Lead

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