SalesTech Star

After a Volatile, Uncertain Year, Sales Organizations Must Look Toward Revenue Transformation

By Chris Cabrera, founder and CEO, Xactly

Sales has historically been defined and stereotyped by maintaining connections with clients and potential prospects in-person, whether in the conference room, over dinner, or during a round of golf. 2020 turned this status quo on its head, sending sales reps to close deals via video conferencing and forcing organizations to quickly adapt their strategies.

Today, to surmount an ever-changing landscape, growth leaders are making rapid decisions to keep their organization on track, all while attempting to plan for an uncertain future. In addition, many organizations, anticipating continued distributed work, are prioritizing widespread modernization to create more agile processes, enhance performance, and optimize their revenue pipeline.

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To better understand how enterprise organizations have progressed in their digital transformation journeys over the past year, Xactly recently surveyed over 2,000 sales decision-makers across the US, Canada, Germany, France, and the UK. The report, The State of Global Enterprise Sales Performance 2021, revealed a few core trends: sales teams are under immense pressure, leaders are heavily leaning on gut-instinct, rather than data-driven decisions, and remote work is revealing some lasting challenges, including rising attrition.

However, one takeaway rose above all: too many organizations are unable to hit their numbers or accurately forecast because their revenue funnel is missing the ability to utilize data. And, while many are attempting revenue transformation, leaders are hitting major roadblocks when adopting technology and ultimately failing in their efforts.

Increasing pressure across sales teams 

Over the past year, sales organizations navigated going remote overnight, disrupted sales cycles, and a wavering economy. In response to this uncertainty, the majority of respondents to our survey noted that they changed revenue goals and sales quotas.

Despite these shifting goals, sales reps are still largely held to pre-COVID standards of performance, with progress to revenue goals (29%) and achieving sales quotas (25%) still the top measures of success today. As a result, half of revenue leaders reported that less than 50% of their sellers met or exceeded their quotas.

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Sales leaders are still relying on gut instinct

According to surveyed revenue leaders, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to forecast bookings and many companies are struggling to deliver on revenue targets. To combat this, some are attempting to modernize the technology and processes they utilize to project revenue performance. 41% of revenue leaders we surveyed said they see the benefit of data and automation, noting that AI tools are a key part of any high-performing sales team.

However, there is reluctance among many to revamp manual processes, as doing things the way “they have always been done” is the main factor in sales planning decision-making today (29%), followed closely by relying on data analytics and intelligent analysis (28%) and gut instinct (24%). Further, while many are optimistic of AI and automation, many are unable to successfully implement new tools or embark on digital transformation efforts. Respondents cited cost constraints as the primary barrier to technology adoption (32%), as well as legacy systems (27%), and lack of buy-in from company leadership (22%). This reveals that successful modernization remains a complex journey that requires a clear roadmap and internal alignment on goals.

Remote work presented lasting challenges

Distributed work has made achieving sales goals even more complicated, with many respondents citing a lack of in-person meetings with clients (33%), budgetary constraints (28%), and lack of internal in-person meetings (27%) as the main roadblocks to success. Combined with increased pressure to meet quotas, sales rep turnover is higher than ever. Over the last 12 months alone, respondents across organizations have exited sales reps, and sales reps have voluntarily left their companies, at higher rates than usual.

While we cannot predict the future, the last year has shown how resilient sales organizations are against uncertainty. However, the industry’s tendency to be stuck in its ways, or doing things as ‘they have always been done,’ could hold many organizations back.

Yet, there is hope. We’re seeing some forward-thinking, innovative revenue leaders upleveling their revenue pipeline management and forecasting processes with technology. Coupled with a promising view of AI and automation, we will see widespread embrace of technology-driven methods, especially if guided through the execution. As we look ahead, it’s clear that sales leaders backed by intelligent revenue generation will better position their organizations to rise above the competition and ensure long-term success.

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Also Catch, this episode of The SalesStar Podcast where Chris Cabrera shares his thoughts on the evolving sales and tech sales market in the ”new normal”