Let’s start by acknowledging the elephant in the room–the pandemic. It makes it hard to predict what’s going to happen over the next year, or even two years. We just know that it’s going to have an impact. With the continued appearance of variants, folks worldwide are changing the way they live and how they do business. But instead of scrambling to react to the “new normal,” it’s time to be proactive and agile with the help of data science.
Here are six trends to look out for in 2022.
Clients Are More Cautious
From a sales point-of-view, customers are taking more time to make decisions. A recent report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development indicates that while global economic recovery has gained momentum, it is increasingly imbalanced. The emergence of new virus variants, labor shortages, rising inflation, and supply chain issues are causing uncertainty. As a result, skill set development, forecasting, and planning become more important than ever for growing your revenue.
Virtual Is Our Reality
Zoom calls are here to stay. McKinsey reported that 70-80% of B2B decision makers prefer interacting in the digital world. Selling online versus in-person should be a key focus on how we plan, operate and develop the skills of our teams. Goldman Sachs Economics Research estimates that 25% of the post-pandemic workforce will permanently work from home versus 5% before the pandemic.
Data is in the Driver’s Seat
We continue to see the transformation of the sales leadership role. We are evolving from the traditional sales exec to the Chief Revenue Officer who places importance on analytics, data science, and the ability to be more predictive around outcomes and engagement with customers. McKinsey surveyed global B2B companies, and found that leaders gain 2 to 5 % in sales when they make data-driven decisions.
Now, where is that data coming from? Most sales teams are using some form of customer relationship management (CRM) tool. The trouble is sellers aren’t keeping the data updated in the tool. But, as I always point out, we have statistical methods to deal with noise in data. CRM data is actually very useful. However, sales leaders will benefit with greater sales team discipline improving data quality in the CRM tool.
Sales leaders can ensure their teams are ready and willing to adopt new technology by providing support and incenting sellers to consistently use the tool and all its capabilities. This can be controversial because some sales leaders feel that incentives are for closing deals. But these kinds of journey metrics and incentives can lead to better quality data and more accurate forecasting.
There is also the issue of trust. Naturally, we all have a resistance to change. In general, machine learning tools are accurate–they provide a helpful view into where the business is headed. But sellers need to trust the tool’s insights, the outcomes that are likely, and consequently where their focus should be increased or decreased.
Revenue Intelligence Reveals the Deals
There’s a great deal of opportunity in the revenue intelligence space– being able to forecast the outcome of a given month or quarter. Understanding sales performance is of immense value to leadership. Outcome forecasts empower senior leaders and finance teams to plan the business and manage revenue growth and profitability. We can also focus on individual opportunities to know where we want to prioritize our team. And we can understand how we want to change our coaching for our sellers as a result. There’s also work being done around prediction of customer churn, and where for example, actions can be taken now for a potential loss of a customer six months from now.
Territory and Quota Planning is the Future
Very closely related to revenue intelligence is territory and quota planning. Quotas are, in some sense, a prediction of what sales are likely to be. Quotas are a sales management tool. But to be effective they must be tied to territory potential and thus to a sales forecast. You can see the relationship between being able to predict an effective set of quotas and predicting sales outcomes. So, the analytics tools to do all that are changing rapidly.
Increasingly, we have had a great deal of success in being able to use data-driven tools to create territories that are better balanced. What I mean by that is, creating a scenario where client relationships can be built but also efficient in terms of the seller’s location. A seller can have a great relationship with a client, but what if maintaining the relationship requires travelling from one side of the country to the other? The time, energy, and expense can be substantial, so the business opportunity must be substantial as well. Data science solutions are being created to improve the decisions sales leaders must make.
Talent is as Important as Ever
Good data, and unbiased predictions are not the only requirement to be successful. We certainly need skilled salespeople. We need to help our sellers by organizing accounts into territories in a way that is productive. So, technology matters, but it’s also about the people and the skill involved. And then there is process. The process should not be onerous and burdensome, so sellers have the time to engage with their clients and prospects. Supporting your talent is as important as ever. After all, it doesn’t look like the Great Resignation will be slowing down any time soon.
Expect the Usual Unusual
We continue to have unusual business conditions. There may be frustration that business isn’t ‘improving’ as rapidly as we like, but we have just to accept it for what it is and play on the field that we’re given.
Agility is the name of the game for 2022. And agility is closely related to being able to accurately forecast outcomes. Robust data and analytic tools give you that advantage.
For further insight into how the latest sales technology can help make 2022 a transformative year for your company, download the following Forrester guide "Unleashing The Future Of Sales Operations With Technology-Enhanced Insights".