To aid in the planning efforts of B2B leaders, SiriusDecisions creates research-driven Planning Assumptions guides each year.
In Sales Operations Planning Assumptions Guide 2019, they highlight key trends every sales operations leader should know and provide actionable recommendations for each.
Because many of our offerings at Accent Technologies correlate with their assumptions, we’ve summarized main points of that guide. However, we encourage you to download the guide and read it in its entirety for SiriusDecisions’ recommendations on what to do about them.
1. Evaluate AI Tools for Sales Forecasting and Next-Steps Guidance
As the Sales Operations Planning Assumptions Guide states, the latest AI-based sales technology captures data from many disparate sources. It then processes that data and uses it to provide sales teams with intelligent suggestions regarding specific activities and next-steps that will likely drive a deal to success.
Today’s AI is also able to predict sales outcomes and score the winnability of all deals in the CRM. By correlating data signals and generating opportunity scoring, AI gives sales teams the ability to pursue only those deals with higher winnability scores and ignore deals that are unlikely to close.
In the guide, SiriusDecisions recommends that sales leaders evaluate AI-based sales solutions and select a platform that will improve their forecasting and winnability scoring.
Further reading: AI and Why the Approach You Take to Build It Matters
2. Plan for Sales and Marketing Alignment Sooner
According to the planning assumptions guide, organizations with aligned marketing and sales departments experience 19% faster growth and 15% higher profitability. However, research from SiriusDecisions has also uncovered that only 46% of companies consider marketing when planning their sales activities. This means that for most companies, marketing and sales alignment is hindered right from the planning stage.
Further, SiriusDecisions has also discovered that most companies wait until the tail end of the current year before planning sales activities for the coming year. The problem with such procrastination is that it doesn’t allow enough time to incorporate the input of leaders from two or more departments.
The recommendation from SiriusDecisions, therefore, is to start planning much sooner than the last quarter of the current fiscal year. Also, sales leaders are advised to identify stakeholders from marketing, product and finance and decide on shared goals.
Further reading: Sales and Marketing Alignment: Stop Talking, Start Understanding
3. Obtain Timely Data for 2019 Incentive Planning
The best sales compensation management (SCM) technology uses real-time operational data to help guide a company’s compensation and incentive planning. But, according to the guide, many companies aren’t using such compensation planning tools.
By using outdated compensation systems, companies lack the ability to collect the relevant compensation data needed to create next year’s quota model. This lack of data leads to inaccurate or delayed quota distributions.
SiriusDecisions encourages sales operations leaders and compensation administers to assess their current technology and look for potential opportunities to improve their compensation program and planning. They also advise that sales operations should integrate SCM technology with their SFA systems.
Further reading: The Future of Sales Compensation
4. Evaluate Automation Tools
As SiriusDecisions states, “For sales reps, the SFA system has been the black hole in which they spend precious time entering data and getting nothing in return.” Why did SFAs fall from grace? One reason was the excessive administrative burden these systems require from reps.
Today’s AI-based sales tools can capture sales activity signals from emails, meeting apps and phone calls. The AI technology can then use these data signals to automatically populate the contact and activity information into the sales team’s CRM. Such automation eliminates tedious data-entry time so reps can spend more time closing deals.
AI tech also improves data accuracy, provides more-complete data entry and removes duplicate data. Further, as mentioned previously, the AI can use the improved data to provide reps with valuable next-steps guidance.
The recommendation from SiriusDecisions is for sales operations leaders to audit their SFA systems and measure the amount of time sales reps are spending on manual data entry. Sales leaders should also determine the completeness and accuracy of their sales organization’s data. Finally, they should evaluate AI tools for automation and sales guidance.
Further reading: How To Automate CRM Data Entry To Increase Selling Time
5. Conduct an Annual Sales-Activity Study
SiriusDecisions research has uncovered an alarming stat regarding the amount of time sales reps spend on selling activities. The guide points out that while salespeople work 51 hours per week on average, only 13 of these hours are actually spent interacting with customers.
The panning guide’s recommendation is for sales operations leaders to conduct (or hire a firm to conduct) annual sales-activity studies to determine how their salespeople are spending their time. Sales operations leaders should pinpoint their reps’ non-selling hours and evaluate technology that can improve efficiencies and boost productivity.
Further reading: The 5 most inefficient B2B sales activities
6. Create a Sales Technology Roadmap
As helpful as technology is for reducing administrative overhead and boosting sales productivity, it can also be a “double-edged sword,” as SiriusDecisions calls it. It’s not uncommon for sales to discover that the specific productivity tools they chose are falling short of the expected ROI.
If sales operations chooses the wrong platforms for their sales team, they risk wasting money on tools their reps won’t use. To obtain the technology that’s right for their team, operations should take great care with process design, data integration and diligently focusing on delivering value to the end user.
“As a result,” according to SiriusDecisions, “sale operations is acting as sales liaison to other functional groups (e.g., IT, product, marketing) and guiding the selection, deployment and administration of sales technology.” Sales operations leaders, therefore, should strive to gain expertise in sales-related technology.
SiriusDecisions recommends sales operations leadership to create a sales technology roadmap that can be integrated with other departments, including marketing.
7. Increasing of AI and Reduction of SFA
The SFA system is now fading into the background as AI’s integration is increasing. In fact, the SFA is now becoming something that reps are unaware of, with opportunity management shifting to email and meeting apps. Increasingly, AI is using natural language processing (NLP) to read and listen to conversations and surface opportunities so reps no longer have to.
SiriusDecisions suggests that there’s no longer a debate. Sales operations leaders should embrace AI-based sales process management.
The Bottom Line
The key takeaway is clear: sales operations leaders who don’t adopt AI will quickly sink into a deep competitive disadvantage. But there’s good news, too. Although many of your competitors are likely already using AI, this technology is still new and unknown to many sales teams. This means there’s still a window of competitive opportunity for you and your team.