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Three Key Trends Will Shape Sales And Revenue Operations Leaders’ Priorities In 2022

By Steve Silver, Vice President and Research Director, Forrester

B2B sales organizations face major headwinds as the purchasing process grows more complex and buyer expectations for a seamless, connected experience increase. According to Forrester research, the average number of buying interactions, both human and digital, involved in purchases jumped by 10 to 27 in 2021. Additionally, buying groups have become the norm — more than 80% of purchases involve three or more people across two or more departments. And the role of C-suite executives as decision-makers increased from 50% of the time in 2017 to 75% of the time in 2021.

Ultimately, success for sales organizations requires operations leaders to implement tools and processes that enable a buyer-centric vision while improving seller productivity.

In our view, these key trends will shape sales and revenue operations in 2022 and beyond.

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Revenue Operations Will Develop The Form To Support The Function

There is little doubt that revenue operations has moved beyond the early trend phase and into the mainstream. Revenue operations continues to gain prominence as B2B organizations seek to establish a holistic, end-to-end approach to managing the buyer’s journey and customer lifecycle. According to Forrester’s 2021 Revenue Operations And Buying Groups Survey, 90% of operations leaders say their organization has some form of revenue operations capability, and 40% of those organizations have already implemented a centralized revenue operations function. Starting the transition from discrete operations functions (e.g., sales operations, marketing operations, customer operations, etc.) to integrated revenue operations by focusing only on organizational design, however, is a path to failure.

Executives from sales, marketing, and customer success must first agree on the problems the revenue operations function is designed to solve. Consider the “necessary and sufficient” approach often used by economists: Is it necessary to take action to solve the problem? And if so, is the proposed solution sufficient to solve the problem?

Common drivers for a revenue operations approach include misalignment of performance metrics and analysis, lack of cross-functional data management and governance, broken or inadequate customer-facing processes, and a technology stack that embeds functional silos and operating inefficiency. Once the problems are clearly expressed, follow these steps:

  • Clearly define the scope, goals, and benefits of the proposed organization.
  • Identify the functional expertise required to meet the scope and goals — then assess existing resources and subject matter experts.
  • Assess the culture and constraints that may impede implementation of a revenue operations approach. For example, an organization with a highly decentralized command and control structure may take a slower approach to organizational changes in order to build momentum and consensus.
  • Consider piloting a revenue operations function that is aligned on a small set (two or three) of clearly defined business outcomes. Examples include a shared center of excellence (CoE) for metrics and analytics, data governance, or revenue engine technology.

Remember that any proposed changes or new organizational structure must tie directly to the goal of delivering an improved customer experience and greater efficiency for internal stakeholders.

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Actionable Insights Will Inform All Aspects Of The Sales Motion — From Planning To Execution

The days of depending on the hero sales rep to close the large, un-forecast deal on the last day of the quarter are over. Instead, sales leaders, sales managers and sales reps must leverage insights about accounts, buyers, customers, and competitors to improve sales predictability and efficiency. Sales operations must move beyond producing reports and dashboards to delivering actionable insights that are just in time, context sensitive, and role-specific. These insights will inform and improve both sales planning and sales execution.

The annual process of creating sales goals, determining routes to market, designing territories, and assigning accounts is often driven primarily by prior years’ results or, worse, the highest-paid person’s opinion (e.g., hippo approach). This approach fails to leverage insights into market dynamics, emerging competitive challenges, or changes in customer preferences. The result is often unrealistic sales goals, unbalanced territories, and wasted sales and marketing efforts focused on accounts with a low probability of being converted to customers.

High-performing organizations combine predictive analysis of the ideal customer profile with improved visibility into the B2B buyer’s digital journey. Sales and marketing collect extensive market and customer data — both internally and from third-party sources — that can be analyzed to identify high-potential prospects as well as growth opportunities within existing accounts.

Sales operations can use these insights to develop realistic quotas and design territories (or assign accounts) that maximize individual seller productivity and ability to achieve quota.

Guided by a deep understanding of account and opportunity potential, sales and marketing can then align on their target buyers, agree on strategies to activate those buyers, and detect signals that those buyers are in an active buying cycle.

Sales operations must also deliver actionable insights that improve seller execution. This may include visibility into buyers’ digital behaviors, guidance on which opportunities to prioritize, next best actions, and real-time coaching. Sales operations must embrace and lead a data-driven approach that enables the sales organization to achieve revenue and growth objectives predictably and consistently.

Customer Value Will Drive The Selection And Deployment Of Sales Technology

The explosion of technologies targeted at B2B marketing, sales, customer success, and product functions has left many organizations with an overly complex, unstructured, underutilized, and overinvested technology stack. Sales operations and IT can no longer deploy sales technology without considering the impact on both their external and internal customers.

Externally, buyers and customers expect sellers to have a complete picture of prior interactions, purchase history, usage, and service issues. The right technology can help sellers understand and anticipate the needs of customers, augment the value of products and services, and drive engagement. The technology strategy must be planned and centered on the business’s top goals and growth strategies, with a relentless focus on improving the customer experience from first contact to renewal.

The internal customer for sales technology is typically the end user, including sales leaders, managers, and reps. Sales operations must deploy and leverage technology that captures a wide range of buyer, customer, and seller data and then turns that data into reliable insights. 

At the same time, sales operations must break down process and data silos that impede sales efficiency. Reduced complexity, ease of use, reduced manual data entry, and fewer administrative tasks are key to delivering value from sales technology investments.

The perception of, and value delivered by, the modern B2B sales and revenue operations function is shifting from a focus on cost control and administration to driving transformation across the revenue engine. To meet the demands of buyers, customers, and sellers, sales operations must adopt a broader approach to the sales ecosystem — embracing an insights-driven selling system that delivers predictable, profitable growth.

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