New Research: CEOs Gear for Growth, But Grapple with Talent Questions

24 Apr 24

CEOs anticipate growth, confident in their strategies to meet demand. However, many are dissatisfied with Go-to-Market teams executing those growth plans.

Our recent research findings underscore a significant spike in GTM leadership turnover, which is appearing in the latest talent market data.

Our companies, SBI Growth Advisory and Bespoke Partners, just released a new batch of research highlighting the conundrum facing leaders as they look forward to growth in 2024. Both sets of research focus predominantly on companies with private equity sponsors.

Simply put, the strategies and tools are in place, but trust in talent is lacking.

Let’s dig into the findings and consider how companies can address GTM productivity shortcomings.

Back on the Growth Path

SBI’s CEO Value Creation Pulse report released in March reveals that C-suite leaders are once again feeling optimistic about growth as demand indicators are rising.

More than half of the CEOs responding to the survey say demand is accelerating in 2024, almost twice the proportion with this optimistic outlook a year ago.

CEO Characterization of Demand with Sources

After a challenging 2023, these leaders see improving market demand signals and are again gearing up to grow.

Further, SBI’s data shows that most CEOs have confidence in their GTM strategies, Product-Market Fit, Operating Models, and Technology Infrastructures.

But the optimism is tempered by concerns over talent.

Specifically, more than 80% of the surveyed leaders view talent as a critical factor for the execution of growth plans.

A Notable Increase in CEOs Expressing Lack of Confidence in Both CROs & CMOs

Yet only half believe they have the right commercial team in place to execute on growth strategies. Primary concerns indicated in SBI’s findings are whether the GTM organization has the right skills and the right people, and if they are using their time in the right ways.

Further, SBI’s survey results show a marked decrease in CEOs’ confidence in their Chief Revenue Officers and Chief Marketing Officers when compared to this time last year.

Addressing the Talent Gap

SBI’s report indicates that most CEOs are focusing on addressing the gap in talent by managing out lower performing GTM staff and hiring better performers.

Indeed, talent market data verifies this trend, especially among senior GTM leadership.

Turnover Index By Role, Quarterly Change

Bespoke’s findings in its recent Private Equity Talent Report Market Update show that GTM leaders are being turned over at a higher rate than most other senior executives. The report focuses on leader turnover at 794 software and SaaS companies in the United States.

The data shows that GTM leaders have experienced the largest increase in turnover in recent months, running 34% higher now than in mid-2023.

Guidance from clients is that this spike in turnover is being driven by the need to uplevel GTM teams. The trend aligns with SBI’s finding that CEOs are relying heavily on new hires to fill the GTM talent gap.

GTM Skills in Demand

The trend begs the question: if present talent does not inspire confidence, what are CEOs looking for?

Bespoke’s research indicates that software and SaaS companies are increasingly focused on recruiting GTM leaders with strong track records to drive capital-efficient growth and grow revenues while using resources wisely to enhance margins.

This contrasts with the “landgrab” strategy that has been common in years past. This strategy is based on the idea that grabbing market share is key almost at any cost because profit will follow once customers are engaged.

SBI’s research focuses on companies beyond software and SaaS. However, it still indicates a similar trend, with a rise in CEOs who say they want to accelerate growth without increasing expenses.

Both sets of research show evidence of a closely related trend: an emphasis on GTM leaders and a focus on customer retention.

Enhancing the relationship with existing customers enables revenue growth without new customer acquisition costs, a proven formula for capital-efficient growth.

This strategy has given rise to the Customer Success function in many companies, and Bespoke’s data shows increasing recruiting interest in these roles and for CROs with a track record in customer retention. These GTM team members own renewal transactions and generate upsell and cross-sell opportunities by enhancing customer engagement after the initial sale.

Success Factors

The research and analysis from SBI and Bespoke indicate several critical considerations for GTM success in the evolving environment. Including:

  1. Optimizing the productivity and efficiency of GTM teams. Maximizing GTM team productivity and efficiency is crucial to capture market share during periods of growth. SBI's research reveals senior leaders' uncertainty about whether their GTM teams are driving growth in the most impactful ways. Bespoke's findings support this notion, emphasizing the high demand for data driven GTM leaders. To drive adequate growth, executives must pinpoint skills and competencies that directly translate into successful execution.
  2. Tapping technology innovations such as generative AI. While AI has been riding high on the hype curve, some of the immediate practical applications for the technology have been in the rapid development of content. Thought leadership material, industry trend analysis, and similar content can be very helpful for GTM teams to engage with customers. In more advanced applications, AI can support richer customer interaction and engagement, such as summarizing customer strategies, leveraging chat functions, and similar customer-facing use cases. These help increase seller productivity and promote profitable growth.
  3. Accelerating new hire onboarding. Time is of the essence in growth execution, so leaders must focus on helping new hires achieve maximum productivity as fast as possible. Playbooks and clear training and development programs create the foundation of a scalable onboarding program. This is especially important since CEOs have indicated that their preferred approach to improving sales performance in today’s environment is by up-leveling GTM teams with new hires.

Looking Forward to Growth

The trends analyzed by SBI and Bespoke indicate that companies see a return to growth this year as market headwinds lessen. Maximizing growth in the evolving environment will require finding the right GTM talent, accelerating onboarding, and driving efficient execution of GTM plans.

Looking forward to growth in 2024? Connect with us.

SBI offers proven growth strategies and a complete talent solution, from recruiting to continuous development.

Bespoke Partners provides curated access to proven GTM leaders who drive growth for Software and SaaS companies.


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