CEOs See Optimistic Demand but Worrying Pipelines in Q4 2023

6 Nov 23

More CEOs are reporting a return to accelerating demand in the market, but how can they take advantage of this while hindered by stagnating sales productivity?

The first half of 2023 has not been smooth sailing for many businesses but based on responses to SBI’s CEO survey for Q3 2023, we may be seeing market demand finally moving in an encouraging direction. However, worrying trends in slower deal cycles, smaller deal volumes, and stagnating sales productivity means CEOs need to proceed carefully to turn things around.

The findings of SBI’s latest edition of the CEO Value Creation Pulse focus on how CEOs and other C-level executives are planning for value creation in upcoming quarters, as well as the go-to-market (GTM) strategies and tactics that will get them there.

In this four-part series, we discuss each of the four trends detailed in the report—aimed at providing readers with insights that will help drive executive planning for the end of 2023 going into 2024.

Optimism in the market but with worrying pipelines

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The survey results show that for the first time since Q4 2022, CEOs that reported accelerating demand now made up the largest group among respondents at 41%. Nearly half of CEOs—45% have also revised their revenue forecasts upward from their initial projections made at the end of 2022.

But despite the optimistic demand, other trends remain a concern—most notably:

  • Worsening quality of prospective customer pipeline, with 49% reporting it to be worse than the last quarter
  • Shrinking sales deal volume, with 45% reporting smaller deal sizes compared to data from the last quarter
  • Renewal rates not improving much, with only 20% reporting better MRR or ARR versus the last quarter. 43% reported no change while 37% reported this quarter to be worse.

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These findings generally point to stagnating seller productivity. Possible reasons for this could be a combination of factors both external and internal—buyer attitudes have shifted toward more stringent requirements in recent quarters and most sellers have yet to adapt to the change in their selling approach, leading to lower and slower conversion rates.

To CEOs who find their organizations facing this reality, SBI has a few key pieces of advice to overcome these hurdles:

  1. Rethink your outbound motions to rebuild or refresh a strong pipeline. Generative AI is helping many competitors produce quality outbound messaging. Set your organization apart by focusing on customer marketing and ABM/ABX to differentiate from standard outbound plays.
  2. Identify buyer stall points. Train your sellers to prioritize ease in both the customer’s internal buying process and their “buying from you” process.
  3. Upskill sales managers to coach teams to achieve faster deal cycles. Shift sales conversations away from how to push deals forward and focus on how sellers can tailor their messaging to the buyer’s own data and buying process.

Discover the other three trends and more insights in the SBI CEO Value Creation Pulse, Q3 2023, which is now available for download. Read the research here.


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